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Having an Asthma Emergency?

Get to the emergency department, stat!

 When to Go to the ED

Every day, about 5,000 Americans end up in an emergency room because of asthma. In general, call your doctor for advice if:

  • Your asthma isn’t responding to your quick-relief medicine
  • Your peak flow falls to less than 50 percent of your personal best


Certain symptoms are a sign that your asthma may be taking a dangerous turn. Call 911 immediately if you experience:

  •  Lips or fingernails that turn blue or gray
  •  Trouble walking or talking because you are so short of breath
  •  Hunching your shoulders, straining your muscles, or needing to sit or stand to breathe more easily
  •  Agitation, confusion, heavy sweating, faintness, nausea, a rapid heartbeat, or pale, clammy skin


What to Expect at the Hospital

When you arrive at the ED, you’ll be monitored to see how well you’re breathing and how much oxygen is in your blood. You may be given different medicine or higher doses than you take at home. You may also receive oxygen. Most asthma attacks that are treated in the ED are under control within two hours.

If you leave the hospital with a prescription, be sure to fill it and take it exactly as the ED doctor ordered. Let your regular doctor know about the ED visit and any new medicines. And if you aren’t already seeing an asthma specialist, consider asking for a referral.


How to Stay Out of the ED

Of course, it’s better if you can avoid needing the hospital in the first place. You’re more likely to land in the ED if your asthma is poorly controlled. So see your doctor if your symptoms become more severe or if you have to use your rescue inhaler more than twice a week. Also, tell your doctor if asthma is limiting your activities during the day or keeping you awake at night. Your doctor might adjust your medicine or suggest ways to manage your triggers.

When it comes to asthma, it pays to be prepared for the worst—but work toward the best.

To talk with a Crittenton Hospital Medical Center physician about asthma issues, or call our physician referral line at (248) 652-5418.

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