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Home / Asthma / During An Asthma Attack

During An Asthma Attack

For those that suffer from asthma, having an attack can be a frightening experience. It is important to recognise that you are having an asthma attack. If an attack is not detected or treated in the right way, it can prove to be serious and in rare cases fatal. Learning what to do during an attack is therefore essential when coping with the condition and preventing further distress. Hence you know if you are having a asthma attack if:

  • Your reliever inhaler is failing to help
  • You are experiencing a shortening of breath
  • Your symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, nasal congestions, breathlessness or chest pain are steadily getting worse

What should I do during an attack?

What to do during an asthma attack
  • Use your reliever inhaler (normally blue) as soon as possible while trying to breathe steadily and deeply. One to two puffs are advised. Stay calm and relaxed
  • Loosen any tight or restrictive clothing
  • Find somewhere to rest, making sure to sit up. It's harder to breathe lying down. Rest your hands on your knees to help support your back
  • If you do not feel any better, within every two minutes take two puffs (one at a time) of your reliever inhaler
  • If your symptoms have not improved and you are worried call 999 or see a doctor urgently
  • Continue to take two puffs (one at a time) of your reliever inhaler if you are still feeling unwell, while waiting for help to arrive.

Should your symptoms improve and you feel that a hospital visit or emergency medical treatment is not required, it is still advised that you see a doctor as soon as possible.

In most instances when having an attack, using your reliever inhaler will be enough to effectively manage and relieve your symptoms. However, sometimes these symptoms are more serious. Should this be the case, urgent action is needed and you should contact the emergency services or a doctor or nurse immediately.

What happens during an attack?

Understanding what happens in your body during an asthma attack may help you understand how important it is to monitor the condition by seeing your doctor and taking the relevant treatments. During the occurrence of an attack, three primary changes take place in your lungs:

1. The bands of muscles around the airways tighten, making the airways smaller.

Constricted airways during an asthma attack

2.There is increased inflammation in the linings of the airways, causing them to swell.

swollen and inflamed lungs during an asthma attack

3. As your airways become irritated and inflamed, the cells produce a sticky mucus or phlegm, further narrowing the airways.

increased narrow and mucus filled lungs during an asthma attack

Consequently, the passage of the lungs narrow, making it more difficult for the air to pass through and therefore more difficult to breathe. Classic asthmatic symptoms during an attack, ranging from mild to severe, are: wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and a chronic cough.

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Medically reviewed by
Dr. Anand Abbot Written by our editorial team
Last reviewed 21-12-2022

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