Medical emergencies – Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that results to millions of emergency visits to the hospital yearly. There are various types of asthma and even though the condition can be controlled, there is no cure yet. It simply means that individuals who have asthma should manage the condition on a daily basis. In addition, it is estimated that half of those who have asthma are not able to control the condition, thus making it more likely for them to end up in the hospital due to an asthma attack. If the condition is poorly managed, it can be life-threatening.

The characteristics of asthma typically include inflammation of the airways and bronchoconstriction. The condition is often worse at night time in which the airways shrink which makes it hard to breath.

Warning signs of poorly controlled asthma include the following:

  • Waking up at night due to wheezing and coughing
  • Unable to participate in daily activities
  • Requiring the use of a quick-relief inhaler for more than twice a week
  • Missing out on work or school
  • Requiring emergency care to breathe properly

The condition is often worse at night time in which the airways shrink which makes it hard to breath.

Triggers of an asthma attack

It is important to note that respiratory infections such as flu or common cold are the usual triggers of asthma attacks. Other potential triggers include laughing, exercises, crying, irritants, cold air, smoke, chemicals, air fresheners and perfume. Take note that some allergens can also become triggers. The common inhaled allergens include animal dander, pollen and dust.

What are the symptoms?

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Wheezing and coughing

The asthma attacks that are severe or do not respond to normal medications taken by the individual require immediate medical attention. As for mild attacks or an increasing frequency of attacks, it must be assessed by a doctor. In some circumstances, the individual might need to consult an asthma specialist.

When to seek medical care

An individual must be taken to the emergency department if severe asthma symptoms are present, particularly if these are accompanied by severe sweating, nausea, faintness, cold skin and rapid pulse rate. These are indications of shock or a life-threatening drop in the blood pressure. Take note that the individual might be experiencing a fatal asthma attack called as status asthmaticus. It is vital to seek immediate medical attention for the symptoms linked with this potentially life-threatening condition.

  • An attack that could not be relieved by rescue inhalers that were previously effective
  • Persistent shortness of breath while lying in bed
  • Chest tightness
  • Fingernails or lips are bluish in color
  • Straining of the abdominal and neck muscles, hunching of the shoulders and standing or sitting to breathe easily
  • Confusion, agitation or difficulty concentrating

Remember that these are indications of an impending respiratory system failure. Take note that fatal asthma attacks often occur with only a few warning signs and can occur quickly, leading to asphyxiation and even death. The fatal attacks are quite common among those who have poor control of the triggers in their daily surroundings and an infrequent history of using peak flow monitors and inhalers in controlling the condition.


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