Emergency Asthma Treatment

Asthma is a serious condition that causes airway constriction and inflammation. Many things can trigger an asthma attack and the severity of these attacks can vary day to day, or even throughout the course of a single day. Most people with severe asthma carry emergency inhalers, which deliver quick-acting medicines to relax airways to ease symptoms. When this is not sufficient, or if an emergency inhaler is not available, treatment at an emergency room is essential.

  1. Symptoms

    • Adults or children experiencing an asthma attack often gasp rapidly. They may appear panicked and may not be able to speak during the attack. Their chests may rise and fall as they struggle to breathe but there will not be full inhalation or exhalation. They may wheeze and appear flushed or pale. If the attack is prolonged without treatment, a victim's skin may turn gray or blue as his blood runs low on oxygen.


    • Asthma attacks can come on suddenly. When standard asthma home emergency treatment--either a nebulizer (a machine that delivers the medication in a fine, easily inhaled mist) or an inhaler that administers bronchodilating medicine--does not work, consider the attack an emergency and get help as soon as possible.

      Emergency asthma medicine, such as albuterol sulfate, relaxes the airways. In more serious attacks, the airways continue to spasm or become so congested that this medicine will not restore breathing sufficiently.


    • At the emergency room, those in the throes of a severe asthma attack may be given an injection of fast acting corticosteroids or epinephrine or a bronchodilating medicine (usually administered via a nebulizer or face mask). The patient may also be given supplemental oxygen
      If these treatments don't work and the situation is critical, intubation is sometimes necessary. Medical professionals will place a breathing tube, hooked up to a ventilator, down the asthma sufferer's airway. The patient is admitted to the hospital for observation until she can breathe comfortably and safely without the ventilator.


    • If someone you know experiences an asthma attack get help immediately. Do not delay treatment as asthma attacks can be fatal. Asthma sufferers should carry prescribed emergency inhalers at all times. You may need to help the sufferer use the inhaler as he may not be able to hold it steady.


    • If you witness someone having a severe asthma attack, remain calm and try to keep the asthma victim calm as you find help.
      Although asthma is often brought on by scents or allergens, stress can also trigger attacks.

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