Asthma is a long-term condition, meaning it stays with you even if you are not experiencing asthma symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it is important to know how to recognize and treat an asthma attack early on.
During an asthma attack, your lungs become inflamed, causing the airways in your body to narrow. If this happens, you may experience a tightness in your chest, have trouble breathing, and begin coughing or wheezing.
The good news: not all asthma attacks are life-threatening. Some asthma attacks have milder symptoms that may not require professional medical attention. Still, you should establish an emergency care plan with your doctor so you’ll know exactly what to do in the case of an asthma attack, whether it’s severe or minor.
For a mild asthma attack, take two puffs of an inhaled rapid acting bronchodilator. Continue every four hours until symptoms improve, and continue using your regular asthma control medication. (FYI, here’s the difference between control asthma medication and rescue asthma medication.) Give the doctor a call for further instructions.
If your asthma attack symptoms worsen after use of your rescue medication, call emergency medical assistance. As you probably already know, asthma attacks can be life-threatening if not treated properly. Do not drive to the hospital or have a friend or family member drive you. Emergency response teams can assess and treat your asthma attack symptoms upon arrival, which will shorten the response time.
If your asthma attack symptoms improve, consider potential triggers of the asthma attack. Remove yourself from the trigger if necessary and continue to assess your symptoms until they have completely disappeared. Here are the common asthma triggers you should try to avoid.