How to Be Prepared for an Asthma Attack

Well-managed asthma will allow a patient to live a normal, active lifestyle, but even the best managed asthma will occasionally flare when triggers, such as allergies, respiratory illness or exercise, set off an attack. An asthma attack can be life-threatening, so it is essential to be prepared for an asthma attack at all times should one strike.


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    Discuss your symptoms with your physician to help identify and understand what triggers your asthma attacks.
    • There are two types of triggers: inflammatory triggers and symptom triggers. Inflammatory triggers, which lead to airway inflammation, include among others, dust, mold, viral infections, animal and seasonal allergies and air pollution. Symptom triggers can exacerbate already inflamed airways and include among others, exercise, smoke and cold air. Hay fever and cold and flu season see an increase in asthma attacks due to increased prevalence of both inflammatory and symptom triggers.
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    Work with your physician to develop an asthma treatment plan. Most asthma treatment plans include the use of a peak flow meter to monitor lung capacity, daily maintenance medication to prevent asthma attacks, as well as a rescue inhaler to use in the event of an acute asthma attack. Parents should provide the school nurse or childcare provider with a copy of the treatment plan.
    • Your healthcare professional will instruct you on the proper use of the peak flow monitor, but in general, you should record your best peak flow for a baseline, and then test your lung capacity using your peak flow monitor at least once per day at approximately the same time each day.
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    Take your daily asthma maintenance medications as prescribed, monitor your peak flow daily and keep a rescue inhaler with you at all times. Maintenance medications are typically administered at home. Parents should provide the school nurse or daycare provider with a rescue inhaler to ensure one is available while the child is in their care.
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    Recognize the onset of an asthma attack, and use the rescue inhaler as prescribed. Symptoms of an asthma attack may include wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing, difficulty talking or walking or all of these symptoms.
    • A decrease in lung capacity as indicated by lowered peak flow readings will often be your first indicator of the onset of an asthma attack. Different people have different peak flow baselines. Peak flow of 80 percent to 100 percent of your baseline is normal. Peak flow of 50 percent to 80 percent of your baseline indicates diminished lung capacity, and you should follow your treatment plan for what to do in this case. A peak flow below 50 percent of your baseline indicates acute lung capacity impairment and requires urgent medical attention.
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    Contact your healthcare provider during normal office hours, call the emergency medical service in your area, or go to an emergency room immediately if the symptoms of an acute asthma attack do not resolve after administering the rescue inhaler or if your peak flow reading is 50 percent of your baseline reading or lower.
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    Call your physician during normal office hours if you find you or your child need to use the rescue inhaler more than once or twice per week. Your daily maintenance medications may require adjustment.

Things You'll Need

  • Treatment plan
  • Peak flow meter
  • Maintenance inhaler
  • Rescue inhaler

Article Info

Categories: Asthma