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Asthma Attack Causes, Symptoms and Emergency Treatment

Asthma Attack Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

While most asthmatics recognize the signs and symptoms of asthma attack and are usually prepared with bronchodilators or medications for relief, at times the attack can be very severe and it helps if others around know how to deal with the situations for breath is a terrifying experience and being well prepared in such a situation is advised.

Typical Symptoms of an Attack:

  • Coughing
  • Breathlessness
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing

The intensity of these symptoms can vary on the severity of the attack. During a severe asthma attack the symptoms are uncontrollable and can be life threatening unless given emergency care.

Causes: An asthma attack can be triggered due to any number of factors. Common causes include:

  • Hereditary factors
  • Environmental factors like dust, pollen
  • Occupational exposure to irritants
  • Dietary changes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Viruses
  • Irritants like cigarette smoke, perfumes, pollution
  • Cold air or change in weather
  • Physical exertion
  • Allergens like dust, mite, pollen, furs
  • Infections
  • Stress
  • Some medications (a certain class of painkillers or antihypertensive and others)

Asthma Attack

Symptoms of Asthma Emergency: To prevent complications from severe attacks you need to recognize when an asthma attack necessitates emergency care. An asthmatic needs emergency medication if she/he displays the following symptoms:

  • Feeling out of breath, even when not moving
  • Trouble walking, talking, or doing normal activities
  • Anxiety
  • Not feeling better after using the rescue inhaler
  • Bluish lips and fingernails
  • Exhaustion or confusion
  • The skin around the ribs looking “sucked in” (especially in children)
  • Unconsciousness

Myth: Many people believe that asthma is contagious and cannot be controlled. However, this is just a myth and you should not hesitate to help someone suffering from an asthma attack.

Also Read: Natural Homemade Remedies for Asthma

Emergency Treatment: To extend emergency care to the person, follow the steps listed below:

• Sit the person upright comfortably and loosen tight clothing

• If the person has asthma medication, such as an inhaler, assist in using it.

• If the person doesn’t have an inhaler, use one from a first aid kit or borrow someone else’s.

• Remove cap and shake the inhaler well.

• Insert inhaler into spacer.

• Have the person breather out completely and put mouth tightly around spacer mouthpiece

• Press inhaler once to deliver a puff.

• Have the person breathe in slowly through the mouth and then hold breath for 10 seconds.

• Give a total of four puffs, waiting about a minute between each puff. 

• After four puffs, wait for four minutes. If the person still has trouble breathing, give another set of four puffs.

• If there’s still little or no improvement, give four puffs every four minutes until ambulance arrives. If the person is having a severe attack, give up to six to eight puffs every five minutes.

Make sure you monitor the person till help arrives. Don not mistake drowsiness or lessening of wheezing noises as a sign of improvement. If the person is drowsy, it means the asthma is getting worse.

About Author

Dr P.Neelam has been engaged in patient care, medical research and medical education for over 45 years. She was formerly Professor of Medicine at the Lady Hardinage Medical College and Associated with Irwin, G.B Pant and many other Hospitals.

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