Acute Asthma Attacks

Asthma can be a dangerous condition. It is important to prevent regular asthma attacks and have a reliever inhaler at hand at all times.

Reliever inhalers provide fast relief from acute symptoms. However, if you have to use your inhaler often, you may need to undergo preventative therapy to avoid dangerous attacks in the future. Without the correct treatment, your asthma symptoms are likely to worsen. 

You can order your repeat prescription for the blue inhaler online via our convenient online assessment. This service is for asthma patients who have been using Salbutamol for at least three months and whose asthma is under control.

Man in shirt holding chest feels an asthma attack coming on

Key takeaways

  • Look out for the signs of an oncoming asthma attack and always keep your reliever inhaler with you

  • Watch out for triggers of your asthma. They may include pollen, smoke, pollution, cold air etc.

  • You can try to prevent attacks by desensitising yourself to some triggers, or by getting treatment for your asthma.

  • Treatments for asthma may include 2 types of inhalers for regular use (usually containing steroids) and for when you're having asthma symptoms, and steroid tablets if necessary

Contents of this article

Early symptoms of asthma

If you suffer from chronic asthma, you should always make sure that you are carrying an reliever asthma inhaler in case you suffer an asthma attack. If you experience symptoms on a regular basis you need to speak to your doctor who will devise a preventative treatment plan.

Early symptoms of asthma include a feeling of tightness or narrowing in the chest as well as dry cough. You will feel like you can’t get enough air and your breathing may cause a rattling noise.

A severe or acute asthma attack will cause the same symptoms but they will be more intense: from severe shortness of breath, heavy & noisy breathing to blueness of the lips and nails. In some cases, especially when there is no reliver inhaler at hand, patients may also lose consciousness.

What causes asthma attacks - Looking out for asthma triggers

Asthma is the result of an inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways in the lungs) that causes airways to swell and narrow. 

Asthma triggers are rather diverse and include allergens (if you suffer from allergic asthma) such as pollen and dust, but also other irritating substances. This is why asthma can also be triggered by cigarette smoke and pollution.

Prevention and chronic asthma therapy

You shouldn’t be lured into thinking that just because you haven’t had an attack in weeks or months it might not happen again. In some cases, asthma is triggered when a combination of factors occur at the same time, for example being ill during a pollution peak or exercising in a dusty environment.

People suffering from allergic asthma attacks, may benefit from desensitization therapy, which helps your body tolerate the allergens you react to. This will reduce the inflammation over time and improve your lung function. Asthma attacks cannot always be prevented, but therapy will make them less likely to happen.

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Therapy

There are two different medications used to relieve acute asthma symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe a beta-2-agonists (for example a salbutamol inhaler, including Ventolin®) or a short-acting anticholinergic (containing bromide). These act on the muscles around the bronchi, causing them to relax and allowing the airways to expand.

However, their mode of action is somewhat slower than that of beta 2-agonists.

Another option is that of xanthine derivatives, which also affect the muscles of the bronchi (airways). They are usually taken as an additional medication to support another short-acting therapy. In cases of acute asthma attacks, cortisone pills may also be used.

On the whole there are different treatments for different types of asthma. The salbutamol inhaler (beta 2-agonist often sold as Ventolin) can be used as a short-acting inhaler but also as a long-acting treatment.

A therapy using an antileukotriene treatment can effectively control the inflammation for both induced and spontaneous asthma (i.e. with or without a specific trigger). Cortisone inhalers are a very effective treatment in more severe cases. They can also be prescribed in tablet form.

Asthma spray for long-term therapy

If you suspect that you are suffering from asthma or if you’ve recently had an attack, you must see a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment is crucial to controlling the condition. Your GP may prescribe a preventer inhaler or cortisone tablets to prevent future asthma attacks. Preventer inhalers need to be used on a daily basis to prevent inflammation and the symptoms typical for asthma.

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Asthma Inhalers

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