Warning Signs Of An Acute Asthma Attack

August 27, 2023

An asthma attack causes a patient's airways to become inflamed and swollen. The condition, also referred to as asthma exacerbation, causes the airways to produce extra mucus while the surrounding muscles contract, leading to a constriction of the bronchial tubes. Asthma attacks tend to cause coughing, wheezing, and trouble with breathing. Minor asthma attacks can be treated at home and get better as long as the treatment is prompt. But if the attack is serious and doesn't respond to home treatment, it can become an emergency. To stop asthma attacks, it's important to learn how to recognize flareups early. This allows individuals to treat them before they cause a crisis. Patients should follow whatever treatment plan they have established with their doctor.

Get to know the major warning signs of an asthma attack now.

Chest Pain

Chest pain doesn't always occur during an acute asthma attack, but it's a common symptom usually accompanied by shortness of breath. The pain might be tightness or aching. Chest pain related to asthma occurs when the bronchial tubes have become particularly constricted and inflamed. The two main medical conditions that lead to post-attack chest pain are pneumothorax and pneumomediastinum. The area between the heart and lungs is called the mediastinum, and pneumomediastinum is the name for air entering this area. It can lead to increased lung pressure and pain. In addition to radiating pain, patients might experience difficulty swallowing, coughing, coughing up mucus, and shortness of breath. Pneumothorax, on the other hand, is extremely serious. This term refers to air that has leaked into the space between the chest wall and lungs due to a lung collapse. If individuals experience wheezing, respiratory distress, racing heart rate, fast breathing, and agitation following an asthma attack, they should seek emergency medical attention, as untreated pneumothorax can be deadly.

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Shortness Of Breath

One of the hallmark symptoms of an acute asthma attack is shortness of breath. If individuals notice they're struggling with shortness of breath, they should follow the steps they and their doctor have gone over for treatment. If their symptoms don't improve when they use whatever medications and treatment methods have been prescribed, they might need to get emergency treatment. Severe breathlessness is a sign an asthma attack is severe, particularly when it occurs in the early morning or at night. Many patients describe shortness of breath as being a tightening sensation in the chest, difficulty inhaling, hunger for air, and the feeling of being suffocated. Certain triggers may increase an individual's chances of an asthma attack that impairs their breathing. These include pollutants, chemicals in the air, allergens, and extremely dry conditions. It's normal to feel some shortness of breath after strenuous exercise, but prolonged or ongoing issues with breathing after exercise can be a sign of an asthma attack. Asthma is often triggered by exercise, so patients should talk to their doctor about how to exercise safely.

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Wheezing And Coughing

Wheezing, when breathing makes a high-pitched whistling sound, and coughing can occur during an asthma attack. Wheezing is often associated with allergies, and it can occur in allergy-triggered asthma attacks. Having a respiratory infection increases an individual's chance of having an acute asthma attack that causes wheezing. Coughing is an indication of an acute asthma attack, and it's especially common at night. Asthma causes the lungs to become swollen and inflamed. Since the breathing tubes tighten, the body is more likely to react to irritants like allergens, pollutants, and stress. When individuals cough, their body is trying to get rid of the particles causing irritation. Different patients may find asthma-related coughing is triggered by different things. Because of this, individuals need to pay attention to when they cough and how severe the cough is. Doing so can help patients identify triggers to avoid and make a more refined treatment plan with their doctor.

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Sweaty And Pale Face

A sweaty and pale face during an asthma attack is a sign the attack is severe enough to be life-threatening. Even if patients think the paleness and sweat are caused by something else, they should seek emergency treatment anyway. It's better to err on the side of caution. Patients experiencing severe asthma symptoms won't be able to do regular activities. They should not try to drive themselves to the emergency room. Individuals might feel panic or anxiety, another asthma attack symptom, alongside a sweaty and pale face. While shortness of breath can lead to increased stress, it doesn't usually bring on feelings of panic unless the body believes it's in danger. An inability to exhale fully is a sign of an emergency, as it may indicate a patient has air leaking into other parts of their body. Being unable to catch a breath, breathing extremely rapidly, and being unable to stop coughing are also serious warning signs. Severe wheezing in and out is cause for emergency treatment as well.

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Trouble Speaking

Trouble speaking is a sign an asthma attack is severe enough to need emergency medical treatment. Most patients are aware asthma can make it difficult to breathe in and oxygenate the body properly. But the narrowed bronchial tubes and inflammation make it equally difficult to breathe out. Exhaling tends to be somewhat easier than inhaling, which means if it's impossible to exhale, the attack is serious. If individuals aren't exhaling all the air in their lungs, there isn't space for them to inhale adequate oxygen. Since their breathing is already constricted, they need all the lung space they can get. Talking can be difficult. To speak, individuals need to exhale and let air vibrate along their vocal cords, as the vibration is what produces sound. If individuals can't exhale enough, it's harder to speak at any volume.

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