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The Anatomy of an Asthma Attack

July 16, 2018
What Happens in the Body When Your Asthma Flares Up?

When breathing is all that you can think about, it could be a sign that an asthma attack is coming.

Common asthma symptoms — such as wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in your chest — can get progressively worse. If they’re not attended to, they can progress into a full asthma attack.

An attack occurs when the muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes — the airways that usher air into and out of our lungs — begin to tighten as they become inflamed and swollen. Inside the bronchial tubes, those inflamed membranes secrete thick mucus. This action narrows the airways to the point that almost no air can pass through at all.

Go to an emergency room for treatment if an attack reaches the point that you’re unable to breathe while walking or talking.

What Causes Asthma Attacks?

Asthma attacks often occur in response to “triggers,” or elements in your environment that irritate your airways. Some of the most common asthma triggers are:

  • Smoke from sources like tobacco, wood and incense
  • Ozone
  • Nitrogen dioxide from gas heaters and stoves
  • The presence of dust mites or cockroaches
  • Mold or mildew
  • Pet dander
  • Exercise
  • Strong emotions
  • Stress