Asthma exacerbation is another term for an asthma attack in which the bronchial tubes through which air flows to the lungs suddenly tighten and become constricted. This makes it extremely difficult to breathe, resulting in an asthma exacerbation. There are many things that can trigger an asthma exacerbation and quick treatment is necessary to prevent a medical emergency.
Those with asthma are at risk of an asthma exacerbation when their lungs and airways begin to overreact to certain things that trigger these attacks. During an asthma exacerbation the lining of the airways will suddenly become swollen and inflamed. The muscles of these airways will tighten up and the production of mucus will increase. This combination makes the openings much narrower and can almost close them altogether, making breathing hard. A severe asthma attack can result in death if untreated as the person will eventually be unable to breathe.
There are many triggers that can cause an asthma exacerbation. Science does not understand why exactly they do but each person with asthma has certain things that can set off an attack. Among these triggers are allergens like mold and pollen, irritants like smoke and certain odors, sensitivity to some medications, pollution, stress, exercise and even forms of heartburn.
The signs of an asthma exacerbation will be tightness in the chest followed by difficulty breathing. The person may be wheezing as they attempt to get oxygen into their lungs, the result of trying to force air through the narrowed airways. There also can be coughing during an asthma attack. A bad asthma exacerbation can make the person turn blue and panic.
Asthma is classified in four different categories. Mild intermittent asthma is defined as causing symptoms of asthma as much as two times in a week and two nights in a month. Mild persistent asthma is characterized by symptoms of asthma more than twice a week or twice a month at night but not ever more than one time in a single day. Moderate persistent asthma means there are asthma symptoms every day and multiple nights of the week. The worst type is severe persistent asthma, with symptoms every day and often at night.
There are medications that can control some of the symptoms of asthma. Inhalers and various forms of steroids can ease these symptoms. During a severe asthma exacerbation an inhaler, also known as a bronchodilator, can rapidly open the blocked airways. These are called rescue inhalers and begin to work within a few minutes. The effects can last for up to four hours. Those who suffer from asthma exacerbations should always be instructed on how to correctly use their inhalers during an emergency.