Asthma attacks are a reversible inflammation and narrowing of the airways. The narrowing is caused by smooth muscles around the airways that constrict and make it hard for the patient to breathe. When air flows through the constricted section of the airway, a high pitch wheezing sound is produced. An asthma attack can be triggered by exercise, cold air, animal dander, pollen, tobacco smoke, stress, medications, infection or any other inhaled pollutants. Signs and symptoms can range from coughing, wheezing, chest tightness to shortness of breath.
Treatment of Acute Asthma
Treatment of acute asthma exacerbation must address the smooth muscle constriction via bronchodilators (such as albuterol, levabuterol, IV magnesium, and terbutaline) and inflammation via corticosteroids (predisone, solumedrol). The severity of the patient’s symptoms dictates how he/she will be managed in the emergency department such as FRONTLINE ER. The first line of treatment usually involves a nebulized bronchodilator treatment and oral steroids. More severe cases will require the use of IV medications such as solumedrol, magnesium sulfate, terbutaline etc.
In patients with impending respiratory failure and fatigue, the emergency physician can start the patient on mechanically assisted ventilation or even intubate the patient to allow a machine to breathe for the patient. Lab work and a chest X-ray may be ordered to help the physician rule out infectious or other causes of the acute asthma exacerbation episode.