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What is an Asthma Attack & Symptoms

What is an Asthma Attac

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Compared to other ill-health conditions, an asthma attack will usually have much more in the way of severity and urgency to it. It’s easy to understand why that is, as breathing is one of the most critical functions undertaken by the body. When it becomes very difficult to get the airflow needed for your lungs to serve their purpose in the respiration process then you’re going to be in a bad way. Finding a way to get your airways opened up again is going to be a real priority. That restriction of airway space is the basic physiological explanation for asthma attack symptoms, but fortunately there are ways of reducing the severity of an asthma attack and it’s not particularly difficult to do it.

We’ll look at all of this, but let’s start with a more detailed overview of exactly what is an asthma attack before moving to what asthma sufferers can do to ensure they are not overly debilitated by their condition. The good news is that asthma is a very manageable condition, but it does require the person to be proactive in maintaining their health.

The Workings of an Asthma Attack

Bronchoconstriction is the term used to describe when airways tighten and it becomes more difficult for air to pass from the mouth and nose into the lungs. As mentioned, that’s the basics of what an asthma attack involves. Bronchoconstriction also comes with inflammation of the walls of the airways and they then also fill with mucus. This mucus blockage compounds the inability to breathe normally as part of asthma attack symptoms. The individual will continue to have difficulty breathing until the asthma attack subsides on its own, or some type of interventional medication is taken to relieve symptoms.

What Causes Asthma

The exact causes of asthma are not clearly understood by the medical community. It is known that the same susceptibility to seasonal allergies increases a person’s chance of having asthma. It’s also understood that here’s a strong genetic component to asthma – if either of your parents had it then there’s a good chance you’ll have it as well. Mild asthma symptoms can become more severe if a person has a dust mite or animal dander allergy/

Latent food allergies can also make a person’s asthma worse, and in extreme cases severe breathing difficulties that mimic an asthma attack may come with anaphylaxis (severe food allergy response where the body goes into toxic shock). Interestingly, some food additives can trigger asthma symptoms on their own. Sulfite additives like sodium bisulfide and potassium bisulfide are the most common culprits here.

Strenuous exercise can also cause more severe asthma attack symptoms in sufferers. Exercise-induced asthma involves chest tightness, coughing, and short-term breathing difficulties. Warming up fully before exercise may prevent this type of reaction.

Smoking will worsen asthma symptoms, and children of women who smoked during pregnancy are more at risk of having asthma too.

Asthma Attack Symptoms

Sufferers won’t need to be told of this, but an asthma attack is not something that can be missed or ignored. Asthma attack symptoms are very noticeable, and include:

  • Wheezing (whistling sound a less air is able to escape from the narrowed airway)
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Labored breathing / gasping
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Inability to speak normally due to being short of breath
  • Blue lips or nail beds

These symptoms can be worsened considerably if the person has the flu or common cold.

Effective Treatments for Asthma Attacks

Every asthma sufferer will be familiar with the rescue inhaler. These devices are easily portable and very effective for relieving asthma attack symptoms. You insert the ported opening into your mouth and inhaling while pressing the button at the top for a therapeutic dose of medication that works to open your airway. Advair and Flovent are popular ones and available for purchase online at reasonable prices.

If you need to use your rescue inhaler more than twice a week then you should speak to your physician. Needing to use it more than twice may mean that your asthma is not under control (see below for guidelines regarding control of asthma) and you may need a medication change. You should also be able to sleep through the nigh without needing to use your inhaler. If not, speak to your physician.

People with stronger asthma may need to take oral corticosteroid medication, and these meds may be given intravenously for people who are unable to take them orally. Atrovent (Ipratropium) is a bronchodilator used to treat severe asthma attacks when albuterol is not effective.

Mechanical ventilation – inserting a breathing tube down the throat and into the upper airway – may be used in instances where an individual is having the most extreme asthma attacks.

Asthma Control

Asthma sufferers will usually have their physician or health care professional ask them whether or not their asthma is controlled. This is not simply an inquiry about how often you have an asthma attack. You have good asthma control if you:

  • Don’t have any breathing difficulties, coughing, or wheezing most days
  • Are able to sleep through the night without waking due to coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness
  • Don’t miss work or school because of asthma
  • Can pass a normal breathing (spirometry) test
  • Do not need to use a rescue inhaler more than 4 times a week

If a person’s asthma fails to meet the criteria for being under control, it may be for any of the following reasons:

  • Medication prescribed is not ideal for you
  • Not using rescue inhalers properly
  • Not using controller medication properly or regularly
  • Exposure to a trigger that worsens asthma attack symptoms

IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for your pet. See your veterinarian for medical advice and treatment for your pet if you have any concerns.


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