What Causes an Asthma Attack?

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory disease, in which various stimuli including allergens and irritants cause obstruction of the airways. As a result, constricted muscles around the airway and inflammation increase the swelling of the lining and secretion of mucous. This causes respiratory problems such as difficulty in breathing and coughing. The most common causes of an asthma attack are infection, exercise allergens, and air pollution. Asthma attack symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

What is an Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack is a sudden worsening of asthma attack symptoms caused by the tightening of muscles around your airways. During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways also becomes swollen or inflamed, while thicker mucus is produced. All of these symptoms — bronchospasm, inflammation, and mucus production — trigger other respiratory problems such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty performing normal daily activities. Other asthma attack symptoms may include:

  • Severe wheezing
  • Persistent cough
  • Very rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or pressure
  • Tightened neck and chest muscles
  • Pale, sweaty face
  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Difficulty talking

In the event of an asthma attack, call 911. Some people with asthma may go for extended periods without having an asthma attack or other symptoms, but have a sudden episode due to worsening of their triggers and symptoms. Mild asthma attacks are generally more common. Usually the airways open up within a few minutes to a few hours after treatment. Severe asthma attacks, however, last longer and require immediate medical attention. It is important to recognize and treat even mild symptoms of an asthma attack to help you prevent future episodes and to keep your asthma under control.

What Happens if an Asthma Attack is Not Treated?

Without immediate asthma medication and asthma treatment, an asthma attack may become more severe. Your breathing may become more labored, and wheezing may get louder. If you use a peak flow meter during an asthma attack, your reading will probably be less than your personal best

Without treatment, your lungs will continue to tighten during the asthma attack and you may be unable to use the peak flow meter at all. Gradually, your lungs may tighten so much during the asthma attack that there isn’t enough air movement to produce wheezing. This is called silent chest and it is a dangerous sign.

If you do not receive adequate treatment for an asthma attack, you may eventually be unable to speak and can develop a bluish coloring around your lips. This change of color is the result of oxygen deprivation in your blood. Without immediate aggressive treatment in an emergency room or intensive care unit, you may lose consciousness and eventually die.

How Do I Recognize the Early Signs of an Asthma Attack?

Early warning signs are keynote asthma attack symptoms to pay attention to. In general, these early respiratory problems are not severe enough to stop you from going about your daily activities. But by recognizing these signs, you can stop an asthma attack or prevent one from getting worse. Early warning signs of an asthma attack may include:

  • Frequent cough, especially at night
  • Reduced peak flow meter readings
  • Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath
  • Feeling very tired or weak when exercising
  • Wheezing or coughing during or after exercise (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody
  • Decreases or changes in lung function as measured on a peak flow meter
  • Signs of a cold or allergies
  • Trouble sleeping with nighttime asthma

What Are the Treatment Options?

During an asthma attack, it is important to stay calm and use the medications your allergist has prescribed. Quick relief medications are used to treat asthma attacks as needed. They include short-acting, rapid-onset, beta2-agonist and/or anticholinergic bronchodilators, and systemic corticosteroids. If symptoms persist, see your allergist at your earliest. Seek immediate medical treatment if coughing or shortness of breath worsens.

Schedule a Consultation

Too much sleep on a regular basis can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and death. If you’re suffer from habitual oversleeping, it may be time to discuss a prevention and treatment plan with your doctor. To get you started, discuss and review your treatment options in order find the perfect option for you. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukla today, for treatment options.

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