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Asthma Health Center

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Severe Asthma Attacks

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An acute, severe asthma attack that doesn't respond to usual use of inhaled bronchodilators and is associated with symptoms of potential respiratory failure is called status asthmaticus. This is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. It is important to be aware of these severe asthma attacks and prevent them with early intervention.

What Are The Symptoms of a Severe Asthma Attack?

The symptoms of a severe asthma attack may include:

  • Persistent shortness of breath
  • The inability to speak in full sentences
  • Breathlessness even while lying down
  • Chest that feels closed
  • Bluish tint to your lips
  • Agitation, confusion, or an inability to concentrate
  • Hunched shoulders and strained abdominal and neck muscles
  • A need to sit or stand up to breathe more easily

These are signs of an impending respiratory system failure and require immediate medical attention.

You may not have more wheezing and coughing with a severe asthma attack. In fact, the presence of wheezing or coughing is not a reliable standard for judging the severity of an asthma attack. Very severe asthma attacks may affect airways so much that the lack of air in and out of your lungs does not cause a wheezing sound or coughing.

Are There Warning Signs of a Severe Asthma Attack?

A severe asthma attack often occurs with few warning signs. It can happen quickly and progress rapidly to asphyxiation.

Does Wheezing Indicate a Severe Asthma Attack?

Wheezing does not necessarily indicate asthma. Wheezing can also be a sign of other health conditions, such as respiratory infection, heart failure, and other serious problems.

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