What you need to do in an asthma attack?


An overview of asthma attack

Asthma is defined as a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory disease of the bronchial tubes – the passages that allow air to enter and leave the lungs. An asthma attack is a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms resulted from the narrowing of your airways or bronchoconstriction.

When asthma attacks happen, the muscles of the air passages in the lungs constrict. This process makes the airways narrower, then patient feel difficult to breathe. During an attack, the lining of the airways also tend to be swollen or inflamed. As a result, thicker mucus is produced more than normal. A feeling of tightness and a wheezy or rattling sound in the chest is also reported in many asthma cases.

All of these factors, consisting of bronchospasm, inflammation, and mucus production, cause symptoms of an asthma attack.

asthma attack 1

Exposing to any allergen, like weed pollen, grass or tree, dust mites, cockroaches can lead to an asthma attack. Besides, other common triggers are irritants in the air, such as smoke and chemical fumes, and strong odors, such as perfume.

In addition, certain illnesses — particularly the flu — and drugs may also trigger an asthma attack, as can strenuous exercise, extreme weather conditions and strong emotions that change normal breathing patterns.

Symptoms of an asthma attack

Obvious symptoms of an asthma attack may include:

  • Severe wheezing when breathing both in and out
  • Coughing
  • Very quick breathing, shortness of breath
  • Tightness or pressure on chest
  • Retractions (tightened neck and chest muscles)
  • Difficulty talking
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Pale, sweaty face
  • Grey -blue lips or fingernails
  • Earlobes and nailbeds (known as cyanosis)

How long does an asthma attack last?

Basing on how long the airways have been inflamed as well as its causes, the duration of an asthma attack can range different. In fact, mild attacks may last only a few minutes; more severe ones can last from hours to days. Mild ones can resolve naturally. On the other hand,  medication or a quick-acting inhaler can also deal with them. More severe attacks can be stopped with appropriate treatment.

mother putting an inhaler in her son's mouth (8-9)

What to do in an asthma attack

The following guidelines are recommended for both children and adults when they are suffering from an asthma attack:

  1. Sit down in a comfortable position straight – don’t lie down. Try to keep calm, breathe slowly and deeply which will help to control your breathing.
  2. Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs. This should relieve the attack.
  3. If it doesn’t get better within a few minutes, it may be a severe attack. Get them to take one or two puffs of their inhaler every two minutes, until they’ve had 10 puffs.
  4. In case you feel worse at any point while you’re using your inhaler or it doesn’t get better after 10 puffs, it may be a severe attack. Call 999. /112 for an ambulance.
  5. If the ambulance is taking longer than 15 minutes, repeat step 2.
  6. Other people can help patients keep using their inhaler if they need to. Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.
  7. If patients lose consciousness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to treat someone who’s become unconscious.


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