Chances are if you’re reading this, you either have asthma, are newly diagnosed, or have a loved one with asthma. And chances are also high that at some point, you’ve asked yourself, “Am I having an asthma attack?” So many of us worry about our symptoms and whether they warrant a trip to the ER. Some people may always react, even when it’s a false alarm, while others might wait too long and need medical assistance. Taking control of your health and staying safe during asthmatic episodes is wise – knowledge is critical!
Let’s break down what constitutes an asthma attack, so you’ll know when it’s time to take action.
Causes of an asthma attack
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that people have throughout their life. While individuals can treat their asthma, making changes can also alleviate symptoms; for example, moving away from or avoiding triggering areas. Asthma attacks can come on due to a variety of reasons. According to the CDC, some of the top causes of experiencing an asthma attack include:
- Dust mites
It’s beneficial to know your triggers so that you can avoid them the best you can. Obviously, you won’t know what all of your triggers are until you encounter them. But if you get wheezy around chemicals, you probably have asthma symptoms around other airborne things like fragrances, sprays, and heavy pollution. Once you encounter a trigger, understanding the symptoms you may experience can help save your life.
Symptoms of an asthma attack
Asthma is an inflammation and obstruction of the bronchial tubes – the passages that allow air to enter and leave the lungs. During an asthma attack, the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes constrict, narrowing the air passages and making it extremely difficult to breathe.
Everyone is different, but there are a few universal tell-tale signs of an asthma attack.
The first sign you may experience at the onset of an asthma attack is a wheezing or rattling sound in your chest, which may cause a persistent cough. Additionally, a tight chest, where you feel like you can’t take a deep enough breath, occurs early on.
Next, your breath will quicken as getting enough oxygen becomes more complex and panic starts to set in. It will eventually become difficult to talk, and you might turn pale and have blue lips and fingernails.
In an interview, a few people described what it feels like to have an asthma attack.
- “It can feel like I’m breathing through a squished straw.”
- “It feels like someone is squeezing the air out of me.”
- “It starts with a cough that seems to be centered in my throat because there is no air getting into my lungs.”
Diagnosing your asthma is important because these symptoms can also mean other things, such as having an allergy, sleep apnea, or a COPD attack. Taking your health seriously and understanding your body is the best thing you can do.
Though it may seem like a pain to keep tabs on what sets off your asthma, ultimately, it’s for your own good. Not knowing and constantly being surprised by attacks can mess with your quality of life and, in severe cases, be lethal. Be smart and get ahead by learning all you can about your triggers and symptoms – your future self will thank you. If you’re struggling to handle your asthma or suspect something more serious is happening, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Gwinnett Pulmonary & Sleep. We’d be happy to help get you on the road to better breathing!