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Asthma – Asthma Attack

March 15, 2021


"So what exactly is an asthma attack? An asthma attack, or asthma exacerbation more formally, is an increase in your baseline asthma symptoms. These symptoms will include increase in cough, phlegm production, chest congestion, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness. These are all symptoms that can be characterized in an asthma exacerbation. I think most significantly for patients to know, you'll know when you are having an asthma exacerbation and you'll have a sense of distress. Obviously in this condition it's important to seek medical care immediately. That's the most important thing to know. If you think you're having an asthma exacerbation, this is not one of these conditions where you want to wait, you want to wait for the weekend to be over, see if you improve. No, this is a condition where you need to seek medical care immediately and treatment needs to be considered. How exactly does an asthma exacerbation happene? Exposure to certain, you know, environmental exposures, air pollution, certain allergy triggers, certain viral infections. All of these things can actually trigger an asthma exacerbation. In terms of management and treatment, again, the most important thing for patients to know is that you need to seek medical care immediately if you feel like you're having an asthma exacerbation. Depending on how severe your asthma exacerbation is, you could be potentially managed in an outpatient clinic. A lot of times you may need to be seen in the emergency room. In terms of medications, oral steroids taken by mouth is the cornerstone of management. Asthma symptoms will improve significantly over a very short course of time, actually, with the use of oral steroids, very commonly prednisone. Sometimes antibiotics are needed. Oftentimes you will need support with short acting broncodilator medications, or known as albuterol. This can be given in either nebulized form or inhaler form. These medications are given on top of the oral steroids, which is really the cornerstone of management for asthma exacerbation. Importantly, after an exacerbation, consideration needs to be made on how we can prevent future exacerbations to prevent lung function from declining over time. In order to do so, it's very likely that your maintenance inhaler therapies will need to be either started or increased to a higher dosage. In addition, careful attention needs to be made on why you developed the asthma exacerbation in the first place. It's important to try to figure out what the actual trigger was and make a note to avoid those triggers, to avoid future exacerbations."

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