What are the symptoms of an asthma attack?
The most common signs of an asthma attack are:
- your regular asthma symptoms (coughing, breathlessness, wheezing, or tightening in your chest) getting worse
- your reliever inhaler doesn’t help
- feeling panicky or anxious
- sweating more
- breathing faster or struggling to catch your breath
- scoring lower on a peak flow test
- struggling to eat and sleep because you’re feeling so breathless
Asthmatic children sometimes complain of tummy or chest pain too.
Asthma attacks don’t always come on quickly, so you may experience some of these symptoms over a longer period like a few hours or days.
What happens during an asthma attack?
During an asthma attack, your airways become inflamed and swollen, and the muscles around your airways get tighter. This produces extra mucus causing your breathing tubes to get narrower too. Because of this, you may have trouble breathing, cough more, and wheeze.
What does an asthma attack look like?
Asthma attacks usually look like someone getting their normal asthma symptoms, but worse. They may be coughing, wheezing, or becoming too breathless to eat or sleep. Their face may start to sweat and they may look pale.
Not everyone experiences asthma attacks in the same way though, so not all asthma attacks will look the same.
What does an asthma attack feel like?
Asthma attacks can feel like your chest is tightening, it’s getting harder to breathe, or you’re finding it harder to catch your breath. They can also make you feel anxious or panicked.
How long do asthma attacks last?
Mild asthma attacks can last for only a few minutes, whereas severe asthma attacks can last for hours or even days. How long an asthma attack lasts depends on its severity, what’s triggered it, and how long your airways have been inflamed.
How severe is an asthma attack?
Not all asthma attacks are classed as severe. Some can be mild.
Mild asthma attacks can go away on their own or be resolved by taking medication, like using your reliever inhaler and following the steps on your asthma action plan to increase your preventative treatment until your symptoms have improved.
Severe asthma attacks that don’t improve with treatment at home can turn into life-threatening emergencies. While severe asthma attacks are rarer, some things can make you more likely to have them. If you’ve had them before or are exposed to things that trigger them, you may be more at risk.
How do I know if I’m having an asthma attack?
The sooner you can work out if you’re having an asthma attack, the faster you can make sure you’re getting appropriate treatment.
Top 5 early signs of an asthma attack
- Breathing rapidly
- Coughing, and it won’t stop
- Wheezing severely
- Struggling to catch your breath
- Getting tightness in your chest
If you have been diagnosed with asthma, you will be taught the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack by your doctor so you can be prepared if you have one. If you’ve had an asthma attack in the past, you will be familiar with the signs to look out for in yourself too.. You can also check your asthma action plan which you and your doctor or nurse will create together at your yearly asthma review.
It’s also important to remember that other conditions may have similar symptoms to asthma, so you need to make sure you’re having an asthma attack and not experiencing something else that might require medical attention. If you are unsure if your symptoms are due to your asthma contact a doctor who will be able to ask more questions and examine you to help find the correct treatment.