You are at home. It’s 3:30am and you are having difficulty breathing. The question is: “Should I go to the emergency centre?”
Asthmatics and parents of asthmatics probably ask themselves or their doctor this question more often than people who have almost any other condition do.
Your asthma attack needs immediate attention if there is:
1. Severe shortness of breath even when walking slowly or sitting down, it does not respond well to relievers, even when these have been administered repeatedly to the point of heart palpitations or trembling
2. Difficulty sleeping with repeated awakenings at night and little relief from relievers
3. Deterioration of peak flow by 50% or more
4. Feel frightened that you will not get enough breath
5. Difficulty speaking because of breathlessness
6. Your symptoms get worse very quickly
7. Increasing exhaustion
8. Feeling cold, clammy or weak
9. Blueness of the lips and fingertips
10. Marked recession that tends to become worse as the attack progresses.
It is impossible to tell the severity of an attack by the amount of wheezing, sometimes in a severe attack the airways become so choked that there is little or no sound produced.
Ideally, asthmatics should have worked out an asthma crisis plan with their doctor to cover periods when their asthma worsens.