Asthma is a chronic condition where the trachea and other airways that are charged with carrying air into and out of the lungs are narrowed and in some cases inflamed. Such inflamed airways become more sensitive to changes in temperature and react to certain particles and elements in the environment. The things that the airways are sensitive to are referred to as triggers and every time the airways interact with these triggers, they tend to narrow, swell and produce lots of mucus. These are meant to prevent the passage of these triggers into the lungs as the body perceives them to be dangerous. The results of the swelling and excessive mucus production are difficulties in breathing. This is why people who are asthmatic tend to gasp for air and complain about difficulties in breathing when they come into contact with the triggers.
Asthma attacks are among the leading causes of emergency room visits in America. They account for more than 15% of all the emergency room visits in America. The beauty of these attacks though is the fact that they are treated in just minutes and the patients are released. Today we want to take a look at how emergency rooms treat asthma attacks in America but first, let’s take a quick look at the causes of asthma attacks, signs and symptoms and things that should prompt you to visit an emergency room for asthma attacks.
Causes and triggers of asthma attacks
The real cause of asthma attacks is not known. The exact element or chemical that triggers the series of reactions from the body is not known but is believed to be a combination of genetic and certain environmental factors. The susceptibility to asthma attacks is also thought to be hereditary and will be passed down generations. Such people generally don’t have the best immunities and will easily be attacked by other viral infections. The common causes that trigger asthma attacks are pretty universal. These include tobacco smoke, dust mites, pollen, cold air, some foods and even air pollution. Some people are affected by only a couple of these triggers while others are affected by all of them.
Asthma signs and symptoms
The symptoms, just like the triggers, are relatively conventional. When someone interacts with the triggers, the inflamed airways react with them casing asthma attacks. The following are some of the most common symptoms of asthma attacks;
Increased coughing activity
Wheezing- this is a whistling sound in the chest when someone is breathing.
Difficulties in breathing
Shortness of breath
Some people will experience just mild versions of these symptoms while others will experience severe symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms go away in a few minutes while others persist and can last for upto two hours. The latter are dangerous especially prolonged difficulties in breathing. They can cause lung complications and sometimes can lead to asphyxiation. You therefore need to visit the nearest emergency room every time you start experiencing these symptoms and your inhaler isn’t helping to calm the situation. Trying to live through the complications can result in more problems and we have already seen, can lead to death.
Diagnosis and treatment of asthma attacks in emergency rooms
Asthma manifests itself in different ways in different individuals as we have seen from the various signs and symptoms of the disease. Some people will take years to discover that they are asthmatic because the signs and symptoms of their asthma are very mild and don’t cause much trouble. Others will right away discover that they clearly have a problem when they experience their first attack because it will hit them with such an intensity that they can’t bear with it. In emergency rooms, a physician will ask you a series of questions and till then perform a lung function test popularly referred to as spirometry to see is there exists a problem in your respiratory system. This is done by measuring the amount of air people are able to blow out of their lungs and their breathing rates. In case the tests are positive, then treatment is initiated.
The first thing that has to be noted, is the fact that there is no known cure or vaccine for asthma. The best a physician in an emergency room can do therefore, is to help you manage the condition and help suppress the severe symptoms through medication. In an emergency room, you will be advised to buy an inhaler and try as much as possible to avoid the triggers that bring about the symptoms in your life. There are certain prescriptions which physicians offer sometimes which are aimed at preventing the symptoms of asthma attacks and are supposed to be taken daily. These include corticosteroids and omalizumab. These are taken to make airways less sensitive to the triggers and open the airways in case of an attack.