An asthma attack (also called an acute asthma episode, flare-up, or exacerbation) is a sudden increase in the symptoms of asthma, including:
The symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how much the airflow to the lungs is reduced. Attacks can be brief (about an hour) or last for several days. They may be seasonal (similar to hay fever) or occur during any season.
Asthma symptoms may start suddenly or up to several hours after you or your child has been exposed to triggers, such as tobacco smoke or animal dander. In some cases (such as with asthma that happens during your job), symptoms may not occur until 4 to 12 hours after contact. Although severe attacks may seem to occur suddenly, they usually occur after several days of increasing symptoms.
Asthma attacks are caused by:
Although attacks can be serious, they can usually be treated at home. Many people have an asthma action plan, which is a written plan that tells you what medicine you need to use, based on the severity of the attack, and when you should call a doctor or seek emergency treatment. You and your doctor create the action plan.
The best strategy for avoiding and treating asthma attacks is being able to recognize an attack and know what to do. When creating an asthma action plan, be sure to talk to your doctor about:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Lora J. Stewart, MD, MPH - Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics|
|Last Revised||May 11, 2011|
Last Revised: April 11, 2012
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