Asthma is a long-term condition, meaning it stays with you even if you are not experiencing symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it is important to know how to recognize and treat an asthma attack early on.
Dr. Preeti Parikh explains what happens during an asthma attack or flare up. 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. However, not all asthma attacks are life-threatening. Some asthma attacks result in milder symptoms that may not require professional medical attention. Work with your doctor to establish an emergency care plan that lays out what you should do in the case of an asthma attack.
If you begin to experience asthma attack symptoms, assess the severity. For a mild attack, take two puffs of an inhaled rapid acting bronchodilator. Continue every 4 hours until symptoms improve, and continue using your regular asthma control medication. Contact your doctor for further instructions. If your asthma attack symptoms worsen after use of your rescue medication, call emergency medical assistance. Asthma attacks can be fatal if not treated properly. Do not drive to the hospital, since emergency response teams can assess and treat your asthma attack symptoms, as well as any complications.
If your asthma attack symptoms improve, it is helpful to try and identify potential triggers of the asthma attack. Remove yourself from the trigger if necessary and continue to assess your symptoms until they have completely disappeared. If you are not responding to your medication after 4-6 hours of treatment, talk to your doctor or seek medical care. It is essential to create an asthma action plan with your doctor so you are prepared to treat your asthma attacks.