Asthma: What is an acute exacerbation?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition which results to inflammation and constriction of the airways. The symptoms of asthma usually come and go. Once the symptoms flare-up and worsen progressively, it is called as an exacerbation or flare-up.

During an exacerbation, the airways become swollen. The muscles contract and the bronchial tubes narrow. There is also difficulty breathing.

What are the indications?

The signs of asthma tend to vary. In some, there are no symptoms between exacerbations. The signs range from minor to severe such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

    The signs of asthma tend to vary. In some, there are no symptoms between exacerbations.

Take note that an exacerbation briefly occurs with or without medications. In some cases, it can last for several hours. The longer it continues, the likely for it to affect breathing.

The indications of an acute exacerbation of asthma include:

  • Hyperventilation
  • Agitation
  • Reduced lung function
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking

These signs are considered as a medical emergency. A doctor should be consulted right away if any of these are present.

Management of acute exacerbation of asthma

Generally, the exacerbations of asthma can be treated at home or at the doctor’s clinic. The doctor will suggest a plan that the individual can use to manage the symptoms and acute attacks.

The acute exacerbations often require a trip to the nearest emergency department. At the healthcare facility, the treatment might include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Corticosteroids
  • Inhaled beta-2 agonists

An acute exacerbation requires close monitoring. The individual will not be released until the lungs are working adequately.

Corticosteroids might be given for several days after the exacerbation. In addition, the doctor will also suggest follow-up care.


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