Emergency Steps for Severe Asthma Attacks

Apr 28, 2016

Emergency Steps for Severe Asthma Attacks

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With 1 out of every 12 Americans being diagnosed with asthma yearly, education about asthma and how to manage it properly is more important than ever. Although asthma is a common condition in American society with all types of people living with it every day, asthma attacks are serious and can be fatal.

Recognizing Symptoms of Asthma Attacks

Typically, those with asthma are aware of how to manage minor to moderate asthma attacks properly. However, when asthma attacks become severe, minutes could mean life or death. Symptoms of an emergency asthma attack are dramatic and easily recognized apart from a normal asthma attack.

Symptoms of a Mild Asthma Attack are:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightening of chest and airways
  • Breathlessness

Symptoms of an Emergency Asthma Attack include:

  • Anxiety
  • Lips and Fingernails have bluish tint
  • Unconsciousness
  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty performing daily activities
  • Breathlessness when not in motion
  • Unaffected by rescues inhaler

Assess Your Asthma Symptoms

For those who are living with asthma, creating an emergency asthma attack procedure can be a pertinent life-saving tool. In culmination with your doctor, begin to set a plan to assess your symptoms on a daily basis. This will help understand what triggers your asthma and learn to be aware when your body is experiencing a serious asthma attack. The assessment is split into three parts:

  • Green Zone: When one is in his or her green zone, all asthma symptoms are gone or managed by a daily medicine. Daily activities of life can be done normally without any problems.
  • Yellow Zone: One is experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of asthma when in the yellow zone. The asthma symptoms may be worsening; however, the rescue inhaler and time to rest usually alleviate asthma. 
  • Red Zone: The red zone indicates a serious asthma attack with symptoms pointing to an emergency. At this point, it is important to follow a written emergency asthma attack plan and call 9-1-1.

Emergency Steps During Severe Asthma Attacks

During the display of these symptoms, time is of the essence. To begin creating a step-by-step emergency asthma attack plan, including a simple 4-step procedure could be the key to saving a life:

  1. Place the person in an upright position. It is important to be calm and reassuring. The person is likely to be frightened and upset, so do not leave the person alone.
  2. Find the person’s rescue inhaler and shake the inhaler. Instruct the person to inhale 6-8 puffs with enough time to take deep rhythmic breaths after each puff.
  3. If the person’s emergency asthma symptoms are not subsiding, begin the 6-8 puff regime again.
  4. Call an ambulance immediately. Continue 6-8 puff regime until medical help arrives.

Although the steps above are standard for a severe asthma attack, keep in mind each person’s asthma is different. Therefore, each plan must be tailored to the individual. Excess steps may include a personalized regime of medication or physical comforting. Along with the step-by-step procedure, include updated written medical information in the emergency plan for medical professionals, such as:

  • Full name
  • Name and number of your regular physician
  • Name and number of the local hospital
  • List of all prescribed medication taken regularly including asthma medication
  • List of your asthma triggers
  • List of your common and severe asthma symptoms

Ensure the plan is kept at an easily accessible location in your residence. It is critical family, roommates and trusted friends be aware of the location of the emergency asthma attack plan and can administer help if necessary. Because the severity of asthma attacks is high, it is important a person can help you properly when you cannot help yourself. Statistics show more asthma-related deaths occur before the arrival of medical attention because of the lack of knowledge.

Being prepared for the worst is the smartest plan one can have when managing a medical condition.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are modern treatment options for lung disease?

Each form of lung disease demands a different approach in how it is treated. Some are a matter of receiving the right medication, while others may resort to surgical methods or modern cancer-fighting techniques. Based on your diagnosis, physicians and doctors can recommend the best path to take.

In general, if you are suffering from a lung disease it is best to stay away from problematic conditions and areas with an excess of particulate matter in the air. Avoid cigarette smoke and try to breathe oxygen rich air in natural, non-urban environments. Although it might be difficult, taking some time away from pets can also limit the agitation of your respiratory system if you have allergies.

Asthma – Besides the avoidance of environmental stressors like smoke, dust, and other allergens, asthma can be treated with beta2 agonists, anticholinergics, corticosteroids, anti-IgE therapy, and other drugs. Each substance used to treat asthma comes with a unique set of risks and possible side effects, so always consult your doctor while undergoing treatment.

COPD – Again, quitting smoking and avoiding environmental triggers can help manage your symptoms, otherwise medicines are available. Bronchodilators can be used to ease and open the airways, mostly coming in the form of inhalers and other breathable substances. Many of the available medications overlap with treatments for asthma.

Emphysema – There are a variety of treatments available depending on the severity of this condition. Bronchodilators and other inhaled medications can be effective in early stages of the disease, but it may be necessary to undergo surgery to remove small wedges of damaged lung tissue. The last resort is a lung transplant, however, intermittent pulmonary rehabilitation and supplemental oxygen can maintain one’s health throughout the condition.

Bronchitis – Since it is mostly caused by viral infections, antibiotics are ineffective, however, doctors may still recommend them if it is suspected to be a bacterial infection. Inhaler medications may also be prescribed to allow greater airflow and reduce any inflammation.

Pneumonia – The most effective treatment available is the use of antibiotics due to pneumonia’s status as a bacterial infection. Most people will see an improvement within 2 to 3 days of taking the medication, though it's important to be in close consultation with your doctor during the process.

Pulmonary Embolism – Many times this condition will be treated with anticoagulation medication. Working to prevent pulmonary embolisms is key. Genetic predisposition, smoking, prolonged immobilization, and general damage to the blood vessel walls are all factors that increase the risk of having a pulmonary embolism.

Lung Cancer – Treatment typically includes multiple options including, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted drug therapy.

  • Surgery – Includes the removal of a section or the entirety of the lung. Most surgeries take a small margin of health tissue along with the affected areas to limit the spread of cancer.
  • Chemotherapy – Uses intravenous drugs to kill off cancerous cells. This method often follows a surgery in order to eliminate any cells left behind. It may also be the case that chemotherapy is administered before a surgery in hopes of shrinking tumors.
  • Radiation Therapy – Uses high-powered X-rays and photons to destroy cancer cells. This type of therapy can be directed at cancer cells from outside of the body, or placed near the cancer through needles, seeds, or catheters. 
  • Targeted Drug Therapy – These treatments are the newest addition to the fight against cancer, often involving multiple drugs working in conjunction with one another.

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What are some tips for maintaining healthy lungs?

The most obvious way to maintain healthy lung function is to stop smoking. 8 out of 10 COPD deaths are a direct result of smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. This is also the best bet against developing any number of cancers.

For other lung diseases, proper exercise and regular activities that expand the lungs are great ways to limit the buildup of mucus, which can eventually cause infection.

Washing your hands and avoiding crowds during cold and flu season are also important considerations that help to avoid sickness in any form. Additionally, make sure to stay up to date with your influenza vaccinations. There is also a vaccine for pneumonia, but be sure to consult your doctor to see if it is right for you.

Lung diseases can take many forms ranging from mild ailments to life-threatening conditions. Learning about the different ways to prevent and treat these diseases can ensure your golden years remain a breath of fresh air.

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