Dr Tendai Zuze
An asthma attack is when the air passages in your chest become swollen and inflamed. The muscles around the airways contract, thereby causing your breathing tubes to narrow.
Asthma attack symptoms include severe shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, and coughing or wheezing. An asthma attack may be minor, with symptoms that get better with prompt home treatment, but it may be more serious.
A severe asthma attack that doesn’t improve with home treatment can become a life-threatening emergency. The key to stopping an attack is recognising and treating the asthma when it flares up early.
Asthma can change over time, so you’ll need periodic adjustments to your treatment plan to keep daily symptoms under control. If your asthma isn’t well controlled, it increases your risk of future asthma attacks.
Lingering lung inflammation means your asthma could flare up at any time. Seek medical attention right away if you have signs of a serious asthma attack, which include:
◆ Severe breathlessness or wheezing, especially at night or in the early morning.
◆ Inability to speak more than short phrases due to shortness of breath.
◆ Straining chest muscles when breathing.
◆ Low peak flow readings when you use a peak flow meter.
An overly sensitive immune system makes your airways become inflamed and swollen when you’re exposed to certain triggers. Asthma triggers vary from person to person.
Common asthma attack triggers include pollen, pet dander, mould and dust mites, upper respiratory infections, tobacco smoke, exercise, inhaling cold dry air and gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn).
Sometimes, asthma attacks occur with no apparent cause.
Anyone who has asthma is at risk of an attack. You may be at increased risk of a serious asthma attack if:
◆ You’ve had a severe asthma attack in the past.
◆ You’ve previously been admitted to the hospital or had to go to the emergency room for asthma.
◆ You use more than two quick-relief (rescue) inhalers a month.
◆ Your asthma attacks tend to “sneak up” on you before you notice symptoms have worsened.
◆ You have other chronic health conditions, such as sinusitis or nasal polyps.
Asthma attacks can interrupt everyday activities while severe attacks can lead to respiratory arrest and death.
Home treatment steps to stop an asthma attack generally include taking two to six puffs of a salbutamol inhaler or using other quick-acting medication over several minutes. Generally, less medication is needed for children and in adults with less severe symptoms.
Severe attacks require emergency treatment in casualty or sometimes hospitalisation for continuous treatment.
The best way to avoid an asthma attack is to make sure your asthma is well controlled in the first place.
While you may not be able to eliminate your risk of an asthma attack, you’re less likely to have one if your current treatment keeps the asthma under control.
Take your inhaled medications as prescribed. These preventive medications treat the airway inflammation that causes asthma signs and symptoms. Taken on a daily basis, these medications can reduce or eliminate asthma flare-ups.
If you are having problems controlling your asthma, please visit your doctor for an effective asthma treatment plan.