It is estimated that one out of every twelve people in the United States have asthma, which is approximately twenty-five million plus individuals, and many don’t know what to do in the event of an asthma attack.
Asthma is a serious condition that can be life-threatening and may require emergency medical attention. Protect yourself and those you love by learning what asthma is, what causes it, what an asthma attack looks like, and how to better plan for a future with asthma.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a common chronic condition that affects millions of Americans making it hard for them to breathe normally in some situations. It typically causes a marked inflammation and a narrowing of bronchial tubes that can make it feel difficult to breathe.
Symptoms of asthma can vary from person to person but usually include:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightening of the chest
This condition is common in both adults and children, and patients can experience the onset of asthma at any age.
Possible Causes of Asthma
Asthma is one condition, but it can be caused by a number of different triggers. Some people may have an asthmatic response to being exposed to airborne irritants, allergens, and sickness.
The most common triggers for asthma are:
- Environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, or pet dander
- Airborne irritants such as strong odors, chemical fumes, or smoke
- Sickness such as the flu, a cold, or respiratory infections
A healthcare professional can help a patient identify what specific triggers are an issue for them and will also educate the patient on what to do in the event of an asthma attack.
What Does an Asthma Attack Look and Feel Like?
Asthma is a condition that can come and go depending on the presence of triggers as well as other factors. In cases where there is a severe asthma exacerbation, it is referred to as an asthma attack.
For many patients, the sudden onset of an asthma attack can be physically exhausting. A person who is experiencing an asthma attack will likely experience intense:
- Chest tightness
- Trouble catching their breath
To keep an asthma attack from getting out of hand, it is to better control it on a day-to-day basis with the help of a proper diagnosis and an asthma action plan established by a healthcare professional. Together the patient and doctor can identify the initial signs and symptoms of asthma and pinpoint the best way to control the condition.
What to Do If You Don’t Have an Inhaler
If you have been diagnosed with asthma and have been prescribed a rescue inhaler, one of the most important things you can do is keep the inhaler within arm’s reach at all times. Rescue inhalers for asthma are designed to alleviate asthma symptoms so that an individual can breathe more normally once again.
Patients who believe they are having an asthma attack but do not have access to a prescribed rescue inhaler should seek emergency medical help. Urgent care centers and emergency rooms should have access to an inhaler and/or breathing treatment that can help expand a patient’s airways and ease their breathing during an asthma attack. In the seconds and minutes it may take to obtain medical help, patients without an inhaler can do three things:
- Remove themselves from an environment where an asthma trigger is present
- Sit up straight with shoulders back to more fully open the airways and lungs
- Remain as calm as possible as that may help keep their breathing more even and stable
How an Asthmatic Can Be Better Prepared for Future Asthma Attacks
Asthma can have a trickle-down effect for patients, meaning that not only does it affect how they live their lives, if left unmanaged it may also result in:
- Repeat asthmatic episodes
- Asthma attacks
- Emergency medical care visits
- Frequent absences from work or school
Being prepared can be one of the best ways to be proactive against asthma in the future. After being diagnosed with this condition, patients should request an asthma action plan. These plans may vary a bit from one provider to the next, but each plan has the same purpose of:
- Including critical patient information
- Identifying doctor and contact information
- Naming an emergency contact
- Listing what medications are currently being taken
- Identifying the next steps to take if symptoms do not improve with a rescue inhaler
- Listing actions to be taken in an asthma emergency
By working with a medical professional to better control their asthma, the goal is for a patient to be able to live a full and active life with minimal symptoms.
Not everyone knows what to do in the event of an asthma attack, but this knowledge could be critical in saving a life. Work with a reputable healthcare professional to make an asthma action plan, which will better prepare you for managing an attack.