For those suffering from asthma, having an attack can be a scary experience. It is important to recognize that you are having an asthma attack. If an attack is not detected or treated immediately, it can be serious and in rare cases fatal. Knowing what to do during an attack is therefore essential to deal with the condition and prevent further suffering. You will know that you are having an attack if:
- Your relief inhaler is not helping you.
- You are experiencing shortness of breath
- Symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, shortness of breath or chest pain are worsening.
What should I do during an attack?
- Use your relief inhaler as soon as possible while you try to breathe regularly and deeply. One to two inhalations is advised. Stay calm and relaxed
- Get rid of any tight or restrictive clothing
- Find a place to rest, making sure you are seated. It is harder to breathe lying down. Rest your hands on your knees to support your back
- If you do not feel better, within two minutes take two inhalations (one at a time) with your relief inhaler
- If your symptoms do not improve and you are worried, call the emergency department or consult a doctor urgently.
- Continue to do two inhalations (one at a time) with your relief inhaler if you do not feel well while you wait for help.
Even if your symptoms improve and you feel that a hospital visit or emergency medical treatment is no longer needed, it is still advisable to see a doctor as soon as possible.
In most cases of an attack, using a relief inhaler will be enough to control and alleviate your symptoms. However, sometimes these symptoms are more severe. If this is the case, urgent action is required and you should contact the emergency department, your doctor or nurse immediately.
What Happens During an Asthma Attack?
Realizing what happens in your body during an asthma attack can help you realize how important it is to monitor your condition by consulting your doctor and following relevant preventative treatments. During an attack, three primary changes occur in your lungs:
- The muscle bands around the airways compress, making the airways smaller.
- Increased inflammation in the lining of the airways, causing swelling.
- As your airways become inflamed and irritated, the cells produce a thick mucus or phlegm, increasing the narrowing of the airways.
Consequently, the passage to the lungs narrows, making it more difficult for air to pass and thus making breathing difficult. Classic asthma symptoms during an attack, from mild to severe, are: wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and chronic cough.