One in 11 children in UK has asthma while around 8% of adults in USA have asthma (Also refer to our other health articles on What is Asthma? and Treatment of Asthma). Nearly half of all asthmatics have experienced an asthma attack. An asthma attack can be triggered by allergens such as smoke, air pollution, dust, irritant chemicals, exercise, change in weather and stress. As such it is important for parents with asthmatic children and people with asthma to recognise signs of poor asthma control AND of asthma attack.

During an asthma attack, there is a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms due to the tightening of muscles around the airways (known as bronchospasm). The lining of the airways becomes swollen with production of thick mucus resulting in the following symptoms:

  • Severe wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or feeling of pressure
  • Tightening of the neck and chest muscles
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Pale and sweaty face
  • Blue lips or fingernails (known as cyanosis)

Click below to watch a video on “What to Do during an Asthma Attack”

Do monitor your asthma control by checking your peak flow regularly as this gives you a direct measurement of your lung function. An asthma attack can escalate rapidly and as such it is important to recognise the early signs of poor asthma control and they include:

  • Reduced peak flow readings
  • Frequent coughing especially at night or after exercise
  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • Wheezing or feeling tired during or after exercise
  • Difficulty sleeping


If you’re experiencing an asthma attack, go (ideally with someone) to the Emergency Department of the nearest HOSPITAL as soon as possible.

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