What is an asthma attack?

Asthma attacks, also known as exacerbations or sometimes “flare-ups”, occur when the airways become inflamed and narrowed , thus making it hard to breathe. These attacks can be very serious and even fatal. During a severe asthma attack you may not get enough oxygen into your lungs and may even stop breathing.

Asthma attacks often occur as a reaction of the lungs to an external substance (“trigger ”) you come into contact with. However, in some cases, attacks may occur without any obvious cause.

Common triggers for asthma attacks include:

  • Viral respiratory infections, such as flu
  • Allergen exposure (grass pollen, dust, fungal spores) in patients who are allergic to them
  • Food allergy
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Seasonal changes with sudden weather changes
  • Children returning to school in autumn (probably due to a combination of poor treatment adherence, increased allergen and viral exposure, and altered immune tolerance)
  • Not taking controller medicines as prescribed

How to recognise and treat an asthma attack?

You must learn to identify an upcoming asthma attack. This can happen quite suddenly or can build-up gradually over a few days. Early warning signs are recognisable because you experience a change in your usual health status, such as:

What to do during an asthma attack?

  1. The first thing to do during an asthma attack is to sit up straight, try to keep calm and take slow steady breaths .
  2. Use your reliever inhaler according to the prescribed treatment or to your written action plan.
  3. If your symptoms are getting worse or you do not feel better after your reliever medication, you must call for an ambulance.
  4. If your symptoms are not improving, keep taking your reliever inhaler until the ambulance arrives.
  5. Follow the instructions on your action plan for how much to take.
More #aboutasthma
Is it asthma?
Can I prevent asthma attacks?
Treatments for asthma
How to communicate about asthma with healthcare providers
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