What is a Severe Asthma Attack?
A severe asthma attack (not to be confused with severe asthma) is an asthma attack that is really bad. The medical term for this is status asthmaticus, or an asthma attack that is unresponsive to attempts to correct it.
Such an attack is caused when the muscles surrounding your air passages spasm and squeeze your airways so air can get in but not out. Increased sputum production may cause mucus plugs that also block air passages.
A severe attack may include any of the following:
Wheezing (or no wheezing)
Unable to speak in full sentences
Leaning on things to breathe
Need to sit or stand to breathe
The need to keep shoulders raised to breathe
Sucking in stomach when inhaling
Bluish tinge around lips and fingertips
Unable to concentrate
Inability to decide what action to take
Anxiety, may be severe anxiety
Retractions, nasal flaring, grunting (common in children)
Peak flow readings less than 60 percent
You may not experience all or only some of these symptoms, as they tend to vary from person to person. Still, when you experience these they are signs that you must take immediate action.
You should work with your asthma physician to create a plan to help you determine what action to take. Usually this will involve the following:
Immediately get away from what is triggering your asthma
Immediately refer to your asthma action plan, if you have one
Immediately use your rescue medicine as directed (all asthmatics should have rescue medicine nearby at all times)
Call your physician, have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room, or call 911
Still, the best way to prevent severe asthma attacks is to prevent all asthma attacks. The best way to do this is to obtain good asthma control, which can be obtained by following these ten simple steps.