Know Warning Signs of Severe Asthma Attack



For those with asthma or similar symptoms, it’s important for people to recognize early on the signs of an asthma flare up so they can avoid severe attacks or potentially serious medical problems.

During an asthma attack, airways become swollen and inflamed, and the muscles around the airways contract and produce extra mucus, causing breathing tubes to narrow, according to the Mayo Clinic. When this happens, an asthma sufferer is most likely to cough, wheeze, and have trouble breathing. Many asthma attacks are minor, the Mayo Clinic reports, and can be treated with a fast-acting inhaler or other medication.

But an asthma attack—which are frequently brought on by triggers such as pollen, pets, mold, tobacco smoke, stress, and chemical fumes—can become more serious and not improve with home treatment. Emergency medical treatment may be necessary. Signs of a severe asthma attack include:

  • Severe breathlessness.
  • An inability to speak more than a few words at a time.
  • Having to strain chest muscles to breathe.
  • No improvement after using a quick-acting inhaler.

For people who have been diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to ask your doctor what actions to take when symptoms arise based on your own particular triggers and reactions.

Be sure a doctor’s license is in good standing by checking the Medical Board of California website (, or the license of an osteopathic physician at the Osteopathic Medical Board of California website (

Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid potential asthma attack triggers, but attacks can occur without any obvious causes, such as exposure to chemical fumes or thick smoke. Sticking to a plan that includes preventative medications can help reduce the potential for an asthma attack.

If you have signs of a severe asthma attack, seek medical attention immediately.

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