Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs and the airways that deliver air to the lungs. An asthma attack occurs when the airways become inflamed in response to a trigger, such as dust, mould, pets, exercise, or cold weather.
Coping with asthma attack
These attacks can occur anywhere and at any time. Coping with an acute asthma attack is a frightening experience. To deal with asthma, you and those around you need the knowledge to know when an attack is becoming acute, and the confidence to take prompt action.
Sometimes an asthma attack can be stopped if you relax, use your inhaler and breathe effectively. Other times, treatment for an asthma attack requires medical attention.
What to do when asthma attack strikes?
- Don’t panic: Panic causes your muscles to get tense, your airways to go into spasm, and your breathing to become shallow and fast.
- Begin pursed-lip breathing: Close your mouth and inhale through your nose. Pursue your lips as if you are going to blow out a candle. Exhale slowly with as little force as possible. Your exhale should last twice as long as your inhale. Don't hold your breath between inhalation and exhalation.
- Use peak flow meter: You can use peak flow meter to check the severity of your attack. Peak flow meters are inexpensive instruments that can be used by the patient to measure lung function.
- Use inhalant: Generally two puffs are recommended every 20 minutes.
- Steer away from triggers: Get away from triggers such as pet dander, smoke, cold air and perfume.
- Assess treatment response: Assess your response to treatment. Good response is a mild cough or wheeze; fair response is a marked cough and wheeze and mild use of rib and neck muscles to breathe. Poor response is a severe cough and wheeze, an inability to talk, and blue lips and nail beds.
- Medications: Use your asthma medications as ordered by your doctor. Usually, the doctor will have given you exact instructions on what medicines to use during an attack. For poor response call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room. Follow the medication instructions carefully to reverse the broncho-spasms.
When to seek medical advice
Seeking medical advice is recommended in the following cases.
- Your symptoms do not get better with medicine. Your breathing continues to get worse after treatment
- Your fingernails or lips turn grayish or blue
- It is difficult to walk or talk; or you have extreme difficulty in breathing.
- It feels like your neck, chest, or ribs are pulled in with each breath you take
- Your nostrils flare when you breathe
- Get away from triggers such as pet dander, smoke, cold air and perfume.