What to do during a severe asthma attack

Ever had that feeling when you were left gasping for breath, your heart starts beating faster, you try to speak but no words came out? No we are not describing the time when you asked the hottest girl in class out or suggesting that you just met Edward Cullen. Nope, we are describing some of the symptoms of an asthma attack.

Asthma is one of the most debilitating diseases involving the respiratory tract. A chronic disease, asthma involves the airways of the lungs which are always inflamed hence it constricts the passage of air in and out of the lungs. During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways also become swollen. Thicker and copious amounts of mucus are also produced in the airways congesting it further and bringing on the attack.

Below is a diagram that shows the different airways of a normal person and that of an asthmatic person.

The other symptoms of an asthma attack include –

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough
  • Rapid heartbeat

Though the symptoms are severe, most often getting the patient the right treatment immediately can go a long way in getting the attack under control. The treatment of an asthma attack depends on the severity of the attack. If an attack subsides after the patient uses their inhaler, no further treatment is necessary. But for a really severe asthma attack, the following steps can be taken until medical help arrives –

  • Don’t let the patient lie down, make them sit upright
  • Ask them to take long, deep breaths. It helps prevent hyperventilation
  • Ask them to breathe in through nose and breathe out through mouth
  • Make sure they are not panicking. It can further tighten the chest muscles
  • Keep the patient away from cigarette smoke, dust and smell of chemicals. Let them breathe some fresh air
  • Make them slowly sip a cup hot coffee if possible. It would clear the airways

For severe asthmatic attacks it is always good to take the patient to a medical examiner for treatment. Usually, severe attacks are treated with nebulisers. The nebuliser is a drug delivery device, where a medicine is administered through a mist that is inhaled into the lungs.

Though there is no cure for asthma, there are various types of treatments available to control and manage asthma by preventing symptoms and attacks. Doctors usually follow a combination of long-term and short-term medications to treat a patient. Patients are also asked to follow certain diet restrictions and manage their lifestyle. This may include quitting smoking and reducing their exposure to dust, animal hair and pollen particles.

Doctors prescribe different medications that provide different types of relief to an asthma patient.

Bronchodilators

A medication usually taken through inhalers. It is the most common treatment provided to patients with asthma. The medication dilates the bronchi and bronchioles helps the airways clear and makes breathing easy.

Steroids

Steroids help in modifying and stimulating hormones that help reduce inflammation and also help in growing tissue.

Anti-Inflammatory

These medication both prevent and counteract the swelling of the airways to the lungs.

Leukotriene

The medicine helps in preventing mucus production and keeps the airways clear.

Ipratropium and albuterol

These are usually prescribed to treat an emergency situation. They help relax the muscles of airway and make breathing easy. They can be taken through inhalers.

So, the next time you see someone wheezing and gasping for breath, go to their aid immediately and try to help them get the right treatment as soon as possible

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