“Tis the season for allergies where I live and respiratory disorders are quite routine. Our doctor’s clinic is filled with asthma patients of all age groups. If one is looking at the big picture, ideally every asthma attack is an emergency. But many patients who have suffered from asthma for too long often try to put off medical help as much as possible, thinking that they can just deal with it themselves.
As a result, it is likely that many still find it difficult to decide which situations call for professional help.
Understanding an asthma attack
An asthma attack, also known as an asthma exacerbation, occurs when the airways of the lungs become inflamed and swollen. When the airway muscles contract, they produce extra mucus, which also contributes to the difficulty in breathing that patients experience during an attack.
Aside from having trouble breathing, people with asthma may cough and wheeze. While some asthma attacks can be minor—having symptoms that can be easily managed with prompt home treatment—some can be more serious. In case of the latter, an asthma attack may be a life-threatening emergency.
The key to keeping an asthma attack under control is to recognize an asthma flare-up as soon as possible in order to successfully treat it in a timely manner.
Following an asthma action plan
People who are diagnosed with asthma must develop an asthma action plan together with their doctor. This management plan is a written list that serves as a guide for the patient to keep their asthma under control. It states your daily treatment, including which medicines to take and when they need to be taken.
Aside from this, the plan also teaches asthmatic patients how to control their asthma in the long term as well as how to handle asthma attacks or a worsening condition.
An asthma action plan is especially useful for children with asthma, as people who interact with and care for them on a daily basis must be aware of what to do around a child with asthma. Through an asthma management plan, caregivers, babysitters, and teachers can be guided accordingly.
By sticking to the asthma action plan that you and your doctor came up with, you will have better judgment when it comes to deciding when to rush to the emergency room.
When to call your doctor
Your action plan will indicate which signs and symptoms require a trip to the doctor. While signs and symptoms may vary from person to person, you may need to make an appointment if you have been using quick-relief medication for more than two days a week or experience more coughing fits, especially if there is a presence or a discoloration of mucus.
If your peak flow rates have been worse for the past two to three days, you may also need to have yourself checked.
Seeking emergency medical help
Remember to seek medical attention immediately once you experience a serious asthma attack, which could manifest as severe wheezing or breathlessness, especially during the night or early in the morning.
During such times, you may have to strain your chest muscles just to be able to breathe. Not being able to speak more than short phrases because of a shortness of breath is also a glaring warning sign to call 911.
If you have followed your asthma action plan yet do not feel any relief with your symptoms, it is best to seek emergency care right away, especially when you have had low peak flow readings, as mentioned earlier. In the clinical setting, your blood oxygen saturation may be checked through the use of a Nonin SpO2 apparatus to rule out the possibility of a lung failure.
With constant monitoring and with a strict implementation of the asthma action plan, it is completely possible to keep your asthma under control and to live your life to fullest.