Warning Signs of a Severe Asthma Attack


Jennifer Larson

Was this helpful? (112)
Woman holding chest to indicate heart attack

Asthma symptoms can be triggered by a number of things: an allergen, a pollutant in the air, even an upper respiratory infection. But symptoms can appear almost anytime—asthma symptoms don’t always require an obvious trigger to make an appearance.

The real danger is when the symptoms lead to a severe asthma attack. If you can learn to readily recognize the early signs of an asthma flare-up and take action, you may be able to ward off a serious asthma attack.

Know Common Warning Signs

The most common signs of an impending asthma attack are coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Ideally, you would reach for your rescue inhaler as soon as you notice those early signs. Often, the right dose of a quick-acting medicine can stop the asthma attack. A typical dose would be 2 to 6 puffs of a quick-acting medicine like albuterol, which is a bronchodilator. Albuterol relaxes the muscles in your small airways, opening them up to allow for the flow of air. You should notice a decrease in wheezing and shortness of breath.

When asthma doesn't respond to consistent treatment, it's considered severe asthma. Watch this video for more severe asthma facts.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: May 12, 2017

2018 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.