Rescue InhalerUnderstanding and Managing Asthma Attacks

Understanding and Managing Asthma Attacks


Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, causing recurrent episodes of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. These episodes, or asthma attacks, can vary in intensity and frequency. They can be relatively minor or so severe that they become life-threatening. By understanding these attacks and how to manage them, people with asthma can lead full and active lives.

Understanding Asthma Attacks

During an asthma attack, the lining of the air passages swells, reducing the amount of air that can pass through. At the same time, the muscles surrounding the airways can tighten, making it even harder to breathe. The body may also produce more mucus than normal, which can further clog the airways.

Triggers for these attacks can include exposure to allergens (such as pollen or dust mites), respiratory infections, physical activity, cold air, air pollutants and irritants (such as smoke) and certain medications, amongst other things. A single episode can last for minutes to hours. It’s important to recognize these triggers and avoid them where possible to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.

Managing Asthma Attacks

Fortunately, asthma can be managed effectively with the right treatment plan. This should be personalized for each individual, taking into account their lifestyle, their triggers, and the severity of their condition.

Preventive medications, or controllers, can reduce inflammation in the airways, making them less sensitive to triggers. These medicines are taken daily, irrespective of whether symptoms are present or not. Another type of medication, relief or rescue medicines, are taken during an asthma attack to quickly relax the muscles around the airways, easing symptoms.

Those with asthma should have a written Asthma Action Plan in consultation with their healthcare provider. This outlines what medications to take and when, how to avoid triggers, how to monitor symptoms at home, what to do during an asthma attack, and when to seek emergency medical help.

Aside from medication, other aspects of asthma management include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, staying active, and getting vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia. Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider are also essential, allowing adjustments to be made to the treatment plan if necessary.


While asthma attacks can be scary, understanding what causes them and how to manage them can help those living with the condition lead more comfortable and less restricted lives. Remember, each person with asthma is unique, and treatment should be tailored to their individual needs and circumstances. With the right approach, asthma can be kept well under control, and asthma attacks can become less of a concern.

FAQs about Asthma Attacks

1. What are common symptoms of an asthma attack?

Symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and difficulty talking.

2. What do I do during an asthma attack?

Follow the steps outlined in your Asthma Action Plan. This usually involves taking certain medications and trying to stay as calm as possible.

3. Can asthma attacks be prevented?

While not all attacks can be prevented, taking daily preventive medications, avoiding triggers, and leading a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.

4. Is exercise harmful for people with asthma?

No, exercise is beneficial for everyone, including people with asthma. However, physical activity should be done in consultation with a healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe and causes no harm to the individual.

5. How often should I see my healthcare provider?

You should see your healthcare provider at least once a year for a routine check-up. More frequent visits may be required if your condition is not well-controlled or if changes in your symptoms or medications are needed.


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