Recognizing an Asthma Attack

Written by Katelyn Schwanke (last updated September 5, 2008)

Being able to properly identify symptoms of an asthma attack is crucial to protecting health and increasing awareness so that you can live life to its fullest. As many asthma patients and medical professionals would attest, there are a variety of types of asthma attacks with varying symptoms. Whether an asthma attack is induced by exercise, exposure to an allergy or constriction of airway you may suffer from a mild attack, a moderate attack or a severe attack. Before discussing symptoms of each type of asthma attack understanding peak airflow is necessary. Peak flow measures the amount of air inhaled in a healthy breath so that that number can be compared with inhalation during a suspect asthma attack. Each type of attack is characterized by a flow measurement and other symptoms to be discussed.

A mild attack is characterized by wheezing, coughing, retention of good color (pink hue), sneezing, a slight increase in the number of breaths taken per minute (above 15), peak flow averaging 90% of normal flow and alert behavior.

A moderate attack can be identified by pale skin color, difficulty speaking, peak flow averaging 50% of normal flow and decreased situational awareness. You may also cough up mucus or feel tightness in your chest.

A severe attack can be identified by blue tinted skin, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, labored breathing and a peak flow average of less than 40% normal. You may feel your neck tighten and you will be unable to speak to others. If you experience symptoms of a severe asthma attack it is crucial that you contact emergency medical services or the local emergency department immediately. People that die from asthma attacks generally experience severe attacks and simply wait too long to get help.

Whether you experience a mild attack, moderate attack or a severe attack you may notice a phenomenon called "second wave". A second attack, or wave, may occur soon after you have finished the initial attack. Second waves can be even more dangerous because they cause an increased swelling of your lung tubes. Be prepared for this by keeping medication on hand.

It is important to always keep medication on your person along with emergency contact information and a cell phone if possible. Be sure to avoid taking any medication not prescribed by your medical doctor. Recognizing these symptoms early can help save your life and give you confidence to live your life to its fullest.

Author Bio

Katelyn Schwanke


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