An asthma attack – what you should do?

The numbers of asthmatics in developed countries are increasing and as many as 1/4th of urban children are said to suffer from asthma attacks. A person in the midst of a severe attack may turn blue because of the depletion of available oxygen in the lungs. He/she may also experience pain in the chest and sometimes perhaps even lose consciousness that could lead to a respiratory arrest. Though a severe attack is thus life-threatening, few signs of asthma are ever manifested in between attacks.

An asthma attack is also known as a flare or an asthma episode is a state where the patient feels shortness of breath interrupting his/her well-being, requiring medication or other forms of intervention to regulate and control normal breathing again. Learn how to stop an asthma attack before it happens.

Asthma attacks accompanied by wheezing (production of a whistling or rattling sound) occur in situations where the air is unable to flow unrestricted, due to impediments present in the bronchial passages. Wheezing at the initial stage of the attack occurs during exhalation but as the attack progresses, it may occur as the patient both inhales and exhales. With further progress of the attack, the wheezing may stop – this is usually indicative of complete blockage of the small airways; which is an extremely grave condition.

Too much mucus, inflammations or constricted airways

Constricting, swollen, or mucous lined airways when exposed to triggering events like the presence of allergens like exercise, cold air or some kind of emotional stress, respond by producing asthma attacks. Children are usually found to have attacks due to extremely common triggering events such as viral illnesses and common colds. If the airways develop an increased responsive sensitivity to stimuli, asthma attacks become chronic and recurring. This is characterized by inflammation, bronchial hyper-responsiveness, sporadic obstruction of the air passages, as well as increased production of mucus.

Recognizing an asthma attack

Asthma is also a deceptive disease for wheezing, breathing trouble and coughing usually tend to be attributed to outside influences such as smoke, exercise, etc, thereby effectively camouflaging the early stages of an attack.

Severe wheezing alone doesn’t necessarily have to be an asthma attack, but when the wheezing is both heard and felt during inhalation and exhalation, the possibility that you might be suffering from an attack is definitely increased. An asthmatic attack is supplemented by wheezing that is not just heard but also felt when a hand is placed on your chest.

A persistent cough accompanied by the other symptoms is usually indicative of an asthma attack. Although coughing alone again, isn’t a symptom of asthma, uncontrollable coughing is a very good indicator of an asthma attack.

Asthma attack symptoms also include chest pain; pressure in the chest area is a common asthma attack symptom (and is quite often confused with a heart attack!) If pain and pressure in the chest are experienced, devoid of any pain radiating to one’s left arm and shoulder, it is more likely to be an asthma attack. This is caused by the body’s attempt to inhale by force. It is also caused by the constriction of the bronchial tubes and lungs.

These are the major symptoms of an asthma attack that you must be aware of. Experiencing any of the above symptoms could mean you’re having an attack. In that case, stop any activity that you may be involved in, administer appropriate medication, find someone to help you and try relaxing and calming down. Taking proper medicine is extremely important for timely recovery and survival.

An asthma attack can start many causes that every asthmatic knows. But there are reasons that will shock you! Cosmetics based on vegetable essential oils can cause a terrible allergic reaction, leading to a suffocating cough up to a loss of consciousness. You should know how to avoid such scary situations. Learn about how to live a full life with asthma.

Finding your medication unhelpful? Or that your asthma attack symptoms are aggravating? Make sure someone calls 911. It isn’t worth it taking it easy and taking chances of calling someone at the right time can sometimes save your life. So now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of the main symptoms of an attack and know exactly what to look out for, battling asthma will be a piece of cake, for knowing is winning half the battle!

How to handle an attack

First, it is important that anyone suffering from an asthma attack take whatever medication has been prescribed to them for this sort of occurrence. Doctors who know how to treat an asthma symptom, like an attack, prescribe medication such as inhalers to help restore normal breathing. Many people have inhalers that contain medicine in aerosol form, making it easy to get into the body quickly.

If an inhaler is not available, a person can handle an asthma symptom such as wheezing by monitoring their breathing and creating slow, even breaths. They may to three for each inhalation and exhalation mentally or someone can count for them. The counting acts to make the person aware of how quickly they are breathing. Sometimes this is enough to calm the person and the respiratory system enough to return to normal function. If this happens frequently, however, it may be necessary to speak to your doctor about changing your treatment options.

Exercises to relieve an asthma attack

Have you ever thought of what exactly is an asthma attack? Most people don’t even know what happens or cause their asthma attack. Without bringing in weird sounding Latin words, an asthma attack is nothing more than your body preventing you from taking in more air than you are already taking in.

The attack occurs to prevent you from hyperventilating and to keep you from passing out. This is when all asthma sufferers either reach for their inhalers or gasp for air. Gasping for air is the worst thing you could do when you are having an asthma attack!

The reason you had an attack was due to taking in too much air in the first place. The more you try to breathe in while having an asthma attack the more your body will try to stop this by closing up your chest; the more your body does this, the more you stress where eventually you are left almost half dead.

Start by breathing

So the first thing you should do when you have an asthma attack takes a stopwatch, or some timer (if you don’t have one just follow along and count in your head). You should stay relaxed, then you begin to hold your breath for as long as you can – counting trying to hold you breathe for 10, 15 or more seconds (however long possible).

You only breathe in through your nose and make sure you pinch your nose, keeping calm. You do this over and over until eventually you start to feel better, at the same time you should either be looking for help or you should be trying to find your inhaler.

The best exercises to relieve an asthma attack

This is where exercises come in to relieve asthma, you should constantly be working up and increasing your fitness. When you exercise always breathe through your nose, you should never breathe through your mouth.

The best exercises to relieve an asthma attack tend to be swimming, yoga, and Pilates. Out of all of them, swimming is the best exercise you can do for asthma, you should be doing some physical exercise each and every day, this will improve your asthma but you should also consider your diet.

You should always try to keep your inhaler on you and always carry a mobile in your pocket, this mobile should have emergency numbers of your family members as well as your hospitals.

If you are finding it difficult to breathe you should immediately call for help or phone someone for help.


This article is written by Carl Lawyer, M.D. pulmonology and sleep medicine specialist, a general practitioner who provides a wide range of services for the treatment of lung diseases and sleep disorders. Dr. Carl Lawyer graduated from medical school at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, Colorado. He is available for inpatient and outpatient consultation on a variety of pulmonary-related issues, including acute and chronic respiratory failure, asthma, lung cancer, and COPD.

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