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What is an asthma attack?

Dr Louisa Draper

"Asthma attacks tend to be the result of your usual asthma symptoms getting gradually worse. If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than three times per day , this could be a sign that your symptoms are not being managed properly, putting you at risk of an attack."

Dr Louisa Draper

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An asthma attack is when your asthma symptoms get significantly worse. The attack is caused by a sudden tightening of the muscles around your airways, which is known as a ‘bronchospasm’.

During the attack, the lining of your airways will become inflamed and swollen, and will thicken with mucus. These three factors combined make it more difficult for you to breathe and produce an attack.

Asthma attacks are very common but can be life-threatening. It is estimated that around three people die of asthma attack every day, but many of these deaths could be avoided with proper treatment and awareness of how to deal with an attack.

How to reduce the risk of future attacks

Even if your symptoms of asthma are mild, you are still at risk of having a potentially dangerous asthma attack. This is why it is so important to take your asthma medicine as prescribed by your doctor, and to reduce your risk of an attack by following this advice:

  • Make sure you are on the right asthma treatment by visiting your doctor at least once a year for a check-up and to discuss treatment option.
  • Remember to take your prescription inhaler regularly by following the instructions given to you by your doctor.
  • Check with your doctor to make sure that you are using your inhaler properly.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Stay healthy and take regular exercise.
  • Monitor your usual asthma symptoms so that you are aware if they get worse over time, or get much worse very quickly.

Make an ‘action plan’ to follow when you have an asthma attack with the points above: Asthma UK have found that this method reduces the risk of having to go to hospital for asthma by four times.