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What does an asthma attack feel like for you?

kjs81 profile image
6 Replies

I’ve had asthma since late 20s, for about 15 years now, Was very mild for first few years and easily managed. Got much worse post pregnancy and particularly in recent years, after viral infections. On fostair now and last time it was bad steroids and fostair didn’t work, but eventually montelukast did. I’ve had covid recently and whilst my asthma felt ok during it, I have been coughing on and off since. This evening I wasn’t doing anything strenuous or talking etc but it felt like suddenly my throat closed over and I was gasping and coughing for breath. Felt like choking a bit and only being able to breathe through very narrow airways. Almost like you swallow wrong and can’t stop coughing. Managed a few puffs of my blue inhaler and it eased. PF didn’t drop too much, just slightly. Does that sound like a asthma attack? Is that how it starts, just sudden restricted breathing? It’s only ever happened to me a few times before in this way and eases fairly quickly (thankfully) so I’m never sure if it’s a full blown asthma attack.

6 Replies
Troilus profile image

I’m not sure on this, but I think people experience different things.My very first asthma attack (before I knew I had asthma) started with a tickly cough. You know the kind of thing - feels like a tickle and you make a cough noise to stop it? - no phlegm. It was just annoying because it happened at night when I was in bed - sometimes about 2 in the morning, but not every night. Nothing to go to the drs about, or so I thought.

Then one night it wouldn’t settle, got up to make a cup of tea to see if that would settle it. I picked the kettle up and my breath “ just went.”

It is a hard sensation to describe. Sort as if you have stopped breathing. I put the kettle down and it ‘ came back.’

Went to rest in a chair and when I leaned back it ‘went’ but came back when I sat up.

Decided I needed to ring the dr at 8, so I wouldn’t go back to bed. Wanted the loo, went upstairs, very breathless, but needed the loo. Having difficulty breathing but managed the loo then it ‘ went’ again, but this time it didn’t come back.

I concentrated on the breath in breath out but it was hard. It felt like no air was getting into my lungs. My muscles started to ache, shoulder blades, front of chest.

Paramedics came and gave me a nebuliser and within seconds I could feel air entering my lungs. Oxygen levels hit 92 after the first nebuliser but dropped each time I spoke, so given more before the transfer to hospital.

I haven’t experienced that level of attack since - because I didn’t know I had asthma I didn’t have a rescue inhaler.

Subsequent ones have been a little similar - sort of breathing hard, out of breath kind of thing but slow attempted deep breaths where I hit the blue and it resolves thank goodness.

All I can say is that if things don’t feel right to you make an appointment with your asthma nurse or GP. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.

kjs81 profile image
kjs81 in reply to Troilus

Thank you. Jeepers that must have been very scary for you. The breath “just going” is similar to what I feel, it’s just like something closes over, my breath goes and I have uncontrolled dry coughing and am struggling for breath. I’m definitely phoning my GP next week.

Leigh2305 profile image

Mine vary. My last major one was like someone was holding my chest from behind and crushing it. By the time I got the nebs felt like I could only breathe air in to the very top of my lungs near my shoulders. Was weeks of smaller ones like that running up which I think was due to my inhaler not agreeing with me.

Others will come on suddenly as a wheeze (usually from an allergen) which will subside after several puffs of my blue.

Others I will feel like walking about is exhausting and makes me breathless but might not cause a drop in my peak flow and I don’t wheeze

I also have the coughing asthma which I will cough until I can’t breathe and gasp for breath until I take my reliever. Also the cough ones I don’t wheeze either

LittleMissFaffALot profile image
LittleMissFaffALot in reply to Leigh2305

My asthma is mainly coughing too and I very rarely wheeze. My asthma is often triggered by exercise but it's very weird - when I stop exercising is when the bad coughing starts! I climbed Moel Famau (big hill in Wales) with a friend yesterday and most of the day my chest felt tight but my breathing was not actually restricted. On the way home the cough started (thankfully he was driving not me) and I was needing my inhaler every couple of hours.

I'm still / again coughing today but I think it's a combination of yesterday's exertions and having to do a deep clean of our dining room after a large portion of the ceiling fell down on Saturday :O

Hanna222 profile image

Although I’ve had asthma for around 20 years, I just recently experienced what I would define as an asthma attack. I see that people define asthma attacks differently, and my previous experiences would probably be defined as asthma attacks by some people. Previously I had just experienced mild symptoms that would pass on their own or with ventoline, or longer periods of uncontrolled asthma with persistent, moderate to severe, symptoms.

The attacks that I had recently, came on very suddenly, like I would wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. My chest felt extremely tight, and I was struggling to move air in and out of my lungs. I was wheezing on inhale and exhale. I got dizzy, and I was not able to get out of bed to grab my inhaler. Luckily I had it within arms reach every time, and it always resolved the worst of symptoms.

After about a week of these attacks, I got an emergency appointment with my pulmonologist, and we changed my preventers. Since then, I haven’t had any more attacks.

I think that what you’ve experienced sounds like an asthma attack. If they occur frequently, you should consider making an appointment with whoever is following up your asthma, and review your treatment plan.

I think 'asthma' is an umbrella term for several different conditions/ diseases / problems.

I recognise your description of throat closing. I also get that with food allergies although it feels different.

My two main symptoms when not dealing with a lung infection are tightness and mucus. But that is on ICS + LABA, I haven't missed a dose in over 20 years, and I have been taking them twice a day. Ventolin occasionally during sports or when I come across e.g. cleaning product, lots of pollen etc

During lung infections, I get overwhelming coughs that hurt like hell in my lungs, then throat (from coughing so much), they make me lose my voice and stop me sleeping. I get loads of green or yellow mucus and need antibiotics. My lungs sound full of mucus when I breath out it's loud - you can hear the mucus. Ventolin is far less effective in lung infections.

I have a million IgE allergies (skin and RAST test confirmed abroad).

Montelukast is working very well. Consultant is currently considering Biologics instead of the corticosteroid because that totally suppressed my HPA axis i.e. ACTH and cortisol (and more).

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