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Severe Asthma Attacks

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 it 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.

What Causes a Severe Asthma Attack?

Whereas the causes of an acute, severe asthma attack are unknown, those people who have them may have a history of infrequent health care, which may result in poor treatment of asthma. 

Some research shows that people who are at risk for a severe asthma attack have poor control of allergens or asthma triggers in the home and/or workplace. These people may also infrequently use their peak flow meter and inhaled corticosteroids. Inhaled steroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that are highly effective in reducing inflammation associated with asthma.

To prevent severe asthma attack it is important to monitor your lung function using a peak flow meter regularly and take your asthma medication as recommended by your health care provider.

 

How Is a Severe Asthma Attack Diagnosed?

To diagnose a severe asthma attack as actual status asthmaticus, your doctor will notice physical findings such as your consciousness, fatigue, and the use of accessory muscles of breathing. Your doctor will notice your respiration rate, wheezing during both inhalation and exhalation, and your pulse rate. Some other tests may include peak expiratory flow and oxygen saturation, among others. Other physical symptoms will be noticed with the chest, mouth, pharynx, and upper airway.

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