Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
person being wrapped up by smoke

Wait, Is This An Asthma Attack?

Today, I had one of those feelings that I have not had in quite some time. An asthma attack. But wait – could I still recognize all the signs?

I wasn’t expecting an asthma attack

It is amazing what a stretch of good asthma control can do. Asthma attacks, or at least significant, sudden onset asthma attacks, had been out of sight, and out of my mind.

It started with running an errand. In fairness, my asthma control has been in a bit of a decline, but I’m doing my best to get through it. Nothing critical and everything within the limits of my asthma action plan.

I am currently washing out a biologic, as I will be making a change to the one I can take in a matter of days. However, I needed to go through a period of adjustment. My OCS had been adjusted and I am in full consult with my respirologist during this stage. Just a few more days to go.

Encountering triggers

While I was running errands, I walked by an office building that was under a large renovation. Actually, the whole small city block was under renovation. Since a lot less of the sidewalk was available and all the smokers were everywhere, I knew I may be in trouble, but thought that I could quickly walk through it. Due to my severe twitchy airways, that is all that was needed to provoke an asthma attack.

To recap, an asthma attack also may be referred to an asthma exacerbation. I like to call mine “respiratory situations.” These refer to a worsening of symptoms. Symptoms may include coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing. Your airways may tighten, narrow and produce mucus.1 Some asthma attacks can be treated with prompt care at home or where you are. Others may require immediate medical attention, if they do not respond to previous care. Keep an eye on your symptoms and your action plan.

I reached for my rescue inhaler and spacer, which I had in my bag and proceed to take my usual rescue dose. Unfortunately, when I turned the corner to take this dose. I ran into more smokers from the buildings side entrance. Honestly, why were they everywhere? My rescue inhaler was helping, another assault of smoke was not helping.

A sudden onset asthma attack

I finally made it top the park bench across the street, this was also in front of where I was picking my lunch up. I waited for my meds to fully open up my airways. It was then time to decide if I need another plan of action. Had my cough resolved enough? I certainly had a significant mucus situation and an alarming cough.

I thought the parking enforcement officer may have even inquired if I need help, thankfully he just gave me an “are you okay?” look. While my symptoms were resolving, had they resolved enough? I was deciding about next steps. Was it time to seek immediate medical attention, perhaps phone the specialist?

A calm came over me as I recalled my action plan, and decided that it was likely time to call my specialist. I had to admit that this attack threw me for a loop. Although, I was prepared. I am not sure that I need to experience that again in a hurry.

Have you experienced a sudden asthma attack?

Have you had a sudden onset asthma attack that shook you to the core? What was on your action plan and how did you get past being freaked out? Share your story here.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Mayo Clinic. Asthma attack. Accessed October 2019.


  • emusing
    3 months ago

    Last June, I had a suddenish onset of an asthma flare–none of the usual suspects were there for triggers. It was a Saturday, and I was with my son and husband doing what we call a foodie tour of our city. I couldn’t walk as quickly and I had a cough. Did my inhaler, and didn’t feel better. In my usual state of denial, it wasn’t until Tuesday that I saw my specialist. I could have gone in on Monday, but I put work first–won’t do that again. By the time I saw my doctor I was sick and needed steroids….it was a nasty flare.

    My asthma had been in poor control leading up to that-some infections -sinus, bronchitis–triggered the flares but this one swooped down on me.

    How I decreased my freakout: promising myself when I need to see the specialist, I will, work be damned…she switched my controller. I had one flare up since then and now am on singulair, and I am hoping this keeps me stable.

  • emusing
    3 months ago

    ps when I say last June, I meant in 2018.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi emusing and thanks for sharing your recent (from June, 2018) situation with this condition. So many of us learn from each flare-up – as we learn more about asthma, and our own individual circumstances, it may become easier to maintain control over these exacerbations. By working with one’s physician – we can gain more control over our lives.
    We appreciate your candor with the community.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    3 months ago

    Nice article Dia. I have had great control and hardly know my rescue inhaler anymore but last night I had a tickle in my throat that got me started wondering what would be next. I knew I was not sick but that tickle turned into a dry cough so I started to think maybe asthma, maybe not. Then I started to cough up mucous and my chest started feeling tight so rather than wait for it to get worse I decided my asthma was paying a call and used my inhaler. About 15 minutes later the cough died down, chest tightness was gone and I felt pretty good. People are starting to burn leaves and I think the smoke was my trigger. Just a reminder that even with good control, the asthma can still flare up. No cough this morning but I have my rescue inhaler near me just in case.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo – glad you were able to analyze your own situation correctly and take the proper action. It’s always good to be so keenly aware of one’s own condition.
    Keep up the good work!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Poll