Asthma is an ailment that affects the respiratory function of the body and reduces the air intake to pass through the lungs. This disease can equally affect people belonging to different age groups. It is a chronic (long-term) illness that is caused by several factors. The severity of Asthma depends on whether all the preventive measures are successfully maintained or not and the exposure level to the asthma triggers.

Asthma is generally observed after a seasonal change but there are many who harbor it throughout the year. An acute condition of asthma when breathing becomes too hard is known as an asthma attack. Minor asthma attacks can be treated at home but major attacks may require professional medical emergency services.

What is meant by Asthma attack?

Asthma attack is also known as asthma exacerbation. In this case, the respiratory passage becomes inflamed and swollen. This causes the muscles in the passage to tighten and contract, giving rise to the narrowing of the bronchial tubes (air passage) in the lungs.

An asthma attack may not be severe all the time. The asthma symptoms may get better by a quick treatment at home. However, sometimes it may seem lethal, calling for emergency. These are major attacks and are life-threatening.

However, one should know that an asthma attack can be avoided easily. If the patient is aware of his/her asthma triggers, asthma symptoms and consults a doctor, then the treatment can be initiated at an early stage. One then needs to follow the treatment planned by the doctor extensively to avoid any asthma exacerbation. Attention should also be given to learn about the remedies when the symptoms of asthma start to worsen.

Causes of asthma attack:

Different asthma triggers affect different people. The most commonly known causes of asthma attack include

  1. Smoking tobacco
  2. Dust, pollen, and pet dander
  3. Breathing in dry and cold air
  4. Exercise or working out
  5. Genetic and hereditary factor
  6. Gastro esophageal reflux disease
  7. Respiratory infection such as cold

These are the well known causes that trigger asthma attack but sometimes asthma attack may occur even in the absence of any trigger.

Symptoms of an asthma attack

There are certain asthma symptoms that help us detect an asthma exacerbation.

  1. Out of breath - If there is a serious feeling of being breathless, making one gasp for breath and being unable to speak more than some short phrases.
  2. Coughing - Severe coughing mostly occurs or worsens during night time or early morning. During an asthma attack the coughing does not stop.
  3. Tight feeling on the chest - The chest might feel heavy and tightened that can even cause pain. This results in a see-saw type movement of the muscle, known as retractions.
  4. Wheezing - This is an unusual kind of noise that is caused while inhaling and exhaling.
  5. Restless sleep, anxiety and exhaustion - Tiredness and unease are considered symptoms of this breathing disease.
  6. Inhaler fails to bring relief - If the symptoms worsen despite using an inhaler which is supposed to work as a quick relief.
  7. PEF (peak expiratory flow) - If one uses a peak flow meter and the readings on it are low it is considered a symptom.
  8. Change of color of lips and fingernails - If the lips and fingernails turn blue it may be detected as an attack.

Do not overlook deteriorating symptoms

All asthma attacks are a result of a gradual deterioration in the various asthma symptoms. Therefore this steady worsening of the condition should not be ignored.

If the inhaler is used more than thrice a week it indicates asthma of not being under control. As soon as one becomes aware of this, no time should be wasted in getting an appointment with the doctor.

Steps to be taken during an asthma attack

There are certain steps that one needs to follow while having an asthma exacerbation.

  1. One or two puffs from an inhaler are needed to be taken immediately to be relieved of any asthma attack.
  2. One needs to sit down, while having an asthma attack and take slow and steady breaths after taking the inhaler puffs.
  3. If there is no improvement, again two more puffs (one puff followed by another) should be taken after every two minutes. A maximum of ten puffs can be taken. This treatment is an emergency treatment normally told to patients by all doctors.
  4. Still if there is no sign of improvement one should call for emergency. By the time ambulance arrives one should continue to take in puffs after every 10 minutes.

Precautions to be taken after asthma attack

Asthma is a kind of disease that is difficult to cure completely but it can definitely be controlled. A treatment that is specific to an asthmatic is prescribed by the doctor and it should be followed completely to reduce the chances of a relapse.

Within 48 hours of an attack one should make an appointment with the doctor for an asthma review.

One should again get another review done within a week or two. The reports of these reviews will help evaluate health improvements according to the medication that have been provided by the doctor after the attack and will also help detect if the asthma is well under control.