Emergency Services: Asthma
Asthma is a fatal and life-threatening condition, in which attacks vary in severity (mild, moderate, and severe), thus requiring an emergency medical treatment.
Patients, who have severe persistent asthma, may need to have intensive treatment and it can affect both children and adults. Asthma attacks may be prevented with improved education thus lessening the burden before the patient reaches an ER. FrontLine ER would like to share with you knowledge on the symptoms of an asthma emergency, how to monitor your asthma, and when to seek emergency treatment.
What triggers an asthma attack?
• Cold and flu infections that affect breathing
• Tobacco smoke
• Irritants such as dust smog, car exhaust, barns or a dirty basement
• Asthma attacks caused by serious food allergy can be fatal (anaphylaxis)
• Pollens from trees, grass, and weeds
When to Visit the ER
The following severe symptoms should be treated right away as an emergency:
• If you have shortness of breath that makes it hard to walk or do normal activities, wheezing, tight chest, or a persistent cough
• If the symptoms do not go away even after taking your rescue inhaler medication(s)
• Your lips or fingernails are bluish in color
• The skin around your ribs look “sucked in” (retractions) especially in children
If you have any kind of allergies, whether or not you have asthma, there is a high risk of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. This is a life-threatening type of allergic response, during which your entire body reacts by swelling and shutting down the airways thus making breathing impossible. If left untreated, anaphylactic shock can be deadly.
How Can ER Visits Be Less Stressful?
- Knowing where the closest ER is located can save you a lot of time during an emergency. Go there and get the address and phone number handy.
- If you have kids, make provisional arrangements with a relative or a caregiver who can take them in case of an emergency
- Have a written record of all the names and dosages of any medicines and carry it with you to share with the medical staff at the ER
- Be ready to discuss your symptoms with your doctor and how much your asthma has been troubling you. Most times, regular changes in treatment are required in order to prevent and manage asthma attacks.
- Be willing to demonstrate on how you use your metered-dose inhaler. Improper use can decrease its effectiveness.
How Asthma Is Diagnosed
Various lung function tests are carried out during an asthma emergency to check the severity of an asthma attack. Some of the tests carried out at FrontLine ER include:
• Peak flow test which measures the rate at which you can breathe out. It can also be used at home to monitor your lung function. The test is done by blowing into a mouthpiece hard and fast with a single breath.
• Spirometry test measures how much air you can breathe out in a second, by taking deep breaths and exhale forcefully into a pipe connected to a machine called a spirometer. The spirometer also measures the amount of air your lungs can hold and the rate at which you breathe.
• Nitric oxide measurement is a newer diagnostic test that measures the amount of nitric oxide present in your breath when you exhale. Higher readings indicate that the bronchial tubes are inflamed.
• Pulse oximetry is a very short procedure that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood through your fingernail.
A machine known as a nebulizer is used to turn the medication into a mist so that it can be inhaled deeper into the lungs. The medications (such as albuterol or ipratropium) are similar to those in your normal rescue inhaler and can help to open the airways faster.
Corticosteroids are normally taken in pill form to help minimize lung inflammation and control your asthma symptoms. The steroids can also be administered intravenously to patients who are vomiting or are experiencing respiratory failure.
Ipratropium (Atrovent) can as well be used as a bronchodilator to treat an intense asthma attack, especially if albuterol is not fully effective.
Oxygen Intubation is performed by putting a breathing tube down your throat into your upper airway. By using a machine that will pump oxygen into your lungs, you will continue breathing while your doctor gives you medications to bring your asthma under control.
How long will I need to stay in the hospital?
Your stay will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how well you are responding to the treatments you receive. FrontLine ER may need you to continue staying in the emergency room for some time to avoid the possibility of a repeat attack.
The need for an emergency treatment can be worrying and overwhelming for you and your family, but, as long as you know what to expect, it can help you feel more equipped to face the experience. FrontLine ER offers you effective and efficient treatment of an acute asthma attack emergency. Visit us today and let us help you keep asthma under control.