Asthma Attacks

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

One of the most uncomfortable feelings a person with respiratory issues can suffer through is during an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, a person may experience coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. In most cases, there is no definitive cure to asthma attacks, but rather, they are managed and prevented when possible. Read on to learn more about this respiratory condition.

What Is An Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack is used to describe swelling and inflammation in the airways, making it difficult to breathe They are typically the body’s serious allergic response to some form of lung or airway irritant. Asthma, and the accompanying attacks, is one of the most common long-term diseases in children and teens, and can progress into adulthood. The severity of asthma attacks can range from mild to severe, to the extent of a medical emergency.


Asthma attacks are often explained as really bad, respiratory allergic reactions gone haywire. Hence, most attacks are triggered by some form of irritant, and it can be specific and different for everyone. Some of the more common irritants that may cause asthma attacks include:

  • Tobacco smoke: this is one of the most common triggers for asthma, along with second hand smoke.
  • Dust mites: these are critters commonly found in every home. Be sure to regularly wash sheets to prevent accumulation of these bugs.
  • Outdoor air pollution: similar to the concept of tobacco smoke, bad air pollution can also trigger asthma attacks. Some examples include car exhaust, burning wood/grass, factory exhaust, or just a very smoggy day. Similarly, strong perfumes or fragrances may also trigger asthma attacks.
  • Extreme temperatures: in very cold weathers, constant breathing of freezing air into the airways can be irritating enough to cause an asthma attack. Be sure to wear a face mask to protect yourself.
  • Cockroach allergen: cockroach droppings and carcasses have been shown to be powerful triggers for allergies and asthma attacks. Keep your house clutter-free and store food and water tightly away to prevent these buggers.
  • Pets: one of the most common allergy triggers, pets can also cause asthma attacks if you are allergic to animal dander.
  • Mold: if you live in a humid area or recently had rainstorms, it will be best to do a mold check and minimize the spores triggering an asthma attack.
  • Physical exercise: for some, extreme exercise can trigger an asthma attack. Be mindful of your own body and limitations when exercising.
  • Emotional distress: sometimes, hyperventilation due to emotional distress can lead to a full blown asthma attack.
  • Medication allergies: be sure to be aware of your allergies to certain medications.

You can also ask your doctor to perform an allergen test to discover what you may be allergic to; when allergy attacks worsen, it can become a full blown asthma attack.

Signs And Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of asthma attacks can specifically vary for different individuals, but general symptoms may include:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Tightness of chest or chest pain
  • Swelling and constricting of airways and/or throat
  • Overproduction of mucous in the airways
  • When asthma symptoms are not relieved with a prescribed asthma inhaler

A mild asthma attack can embody some of the above symptoms, but never gets to the point of inability to breathe. A serious asthma attack is considered a medical emergency, so be sure to call 911 and go to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

Treatment And Relief

When you first get to the emergency room, the priority of the doctors is to relax the airways so you can breathe again. Some common treatments used to do that in a speedy manner include:

  • Albuterol: a beta agonist drug similar to the ingredient found in a rescue inhaler.
  • Atrovent: a type of bronchodilator that can be used if albuterol fails to work.
  • Corticosteroids: to help reduce airway and lung inflammation.
  • Intubation and/or mechanical ventilation: these methods are only used in life threatening situations. In this case, the doctor will place a tube down the airway to force air into the lungs as he or she administers other medication to reduce the constriction of airways.

Drugs can be administered via a nebulizer, which consists of a face mask that mixes the drugs with humidified air to allow more effective penetration of the medication.

Unfortunately, if you have a very sensitive airway, had a history of asthma, or have other compromising respiratory medical conditions, you may be more at risk of full-blown asthma attacks than others. If you suffer from asthma attacks, you are not alone. Go see your doctor and seek ways to learn the specific triggers to your attacks, and learn how to prevent exposure along with symptom management relief. Having asthma does not mean a decreased quality in life; it’s just a matter of learning how to manage symptoms and preventing attack triggers.


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