Treating sudden asthma attacks

August 30, 2010 3:16:46 PM PDT
Asthma is a common illness in New York with thousands of children afflicted. It can run a spectrum from mild to severe, and when it is severe, knowing what to do can be life saving.

We want to emphasize, deaths are rare. However, children every so often do die of this disease. Of course, even one child dying is unnecessary.

Saving lives involves keeping a serious disease well managed and knowing when to get more help.

Asthma is the most common chronic condition in children. While it can be a serious illness, even children with severe asthma can function as well as healthy children in virtually all areas of life.

But managing asthma involves having information about the illness. During normal days, it could be knowing to use a peak flow meter if necessary or an inhaler or bronchodilator when necessary.

Both children and their parents should be familiar on how to use these inhaling medications. They can relax the airways and help a patient breathe.

An attack, which involves restriction of the airways, can come on suddenly. If a child is having a serious asthma attack and symptoms don't improve with their inhaler, then it's time to reach out for medical help.

Serious symptoms to recognize can include:

  • Severe wheezing when breathing both in and out. Even if the wheezing suddenly stops, it is still dangerous.
  • Coughing that won't stop.
  • Tightening of the neck chest muscles.
  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Difficulty speaking.

    In an emergency room, doctors can evaluate. They can use steroids, give oxygen and otherwise get a patient breathing well again.

    One out of every four patients who visit an emergency room do so because of asthma.

    One final point: Someone has asked us if it helps to do CPR on someone being rushed to the emergency room. If a person is not breathing, CPR could be helpful and could keep oxygen in and out of a person. However, it is not generally what will get an asthma attack under control.