Asthma attacks rarely happen without warning. Before one begins, you might:
Recognize the signs, and you could keep yourself from having an asthma emergency.
Signs of an asthma attack can change from one attack to the next. One time you might have little or no coughing beforehand. The next time, you might have a cough that you just can't get rid of, especially at night.
An asthma cough is usually dry and hacking. If you have one that doesn't go away after other cold symptoms are gone, that could point to asthma.
Avoid taking cough medicine to feel better. It won't help the asthma.
A peak flow meter can let you know if an attack is about to happen. Be sure you always know the number that reflects your best breathing.
An action plan tells you how to deal with the symptoms of an asthma attack.
During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways tighten, and the airway linings swell.
Wheezing might be the first symptom you notice. But as the attack gets worse, you'll feel more chest tightness and shortness of breath. Eventually, you might feel like you can't get enough air.
When someone is having trouble breathing, he might lean forward, speak in single words instead of sentences, and get very agitated.
As the problem gets worse, he might hunch over with his hands supporting his upper body. This is called the tripod position.
When it's hard to breathe, the tissue in the chest and neck may sink in with each breath. This is called retraction.
Retractions mean not enough air is getting into the lungs. They're a sign of a medical emergency. Call 911 or see a doctor right away.
In children, other signs that breathing is getting worse are:
Blue or gray lips or fingernails are a sign that there's not enough oxygen in your blood. The condition is called cyanosis.
If it happens, you need medical help right away. Call 911 as soon as possible.
Get emergency help at once if you have any of these symptoms:
Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on October 05, 2015
This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information
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