Causes of an asthma attack | What is an asthma attack?

Causes of an asthma attack

Numerous triggers can be the cause of an acute asthma attack. A rough distinction is made between two asthma subtypes: allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma. However, many patients suffer from a mixture of both forms of asthma.

Typical triggers of allergic asthma are substances that are not actually dangerous, but are classified by the body as dangerous. The immune system reacts with an exaggerated reaction. In some people, this exuberant reaction is manifested as an allergic reaction.

In people with known bronchial asthma, these substances can trigger an asthma attack. It is not uncommon for asthma to develop from a pre-existing allergy. Substances to which the body reacts allergically are called allergens.

Typical allergens that can trigger an asthma attack are pollen, animal hair, the faeces of house dust mites, mould spores or certain foods. Various allergens, which can become a problem especially in certain occupational groups, can also trigger an asthma attack. These include flour dust, wood dust or paint and varnish.

In addition to allergic asthma, there is also non-allergic asthma. Typical triggers of a non-allergic asthma attack are certain drugs, especially certain painkillers, physical exertion, cold, respiratory tract infections, tobacco smoke or other irritants. You can find additional information at: Causes of AsthmaStress in themselves are not the only trigger of an asthma attack.

However, there is increasing evidence that increased stress levels in known asthmatics can increase the likelihood of an asthma attack. Certain drugs can trigger an asthma attack. Certain painkillers in particular play a role here.

In particular, medicines containing the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) or active ingredients from the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, diclofenac or indometacin can trigger an asthma attack. This is not an allergic reaction but a hypersensitivity reaction of the body. Drug-induced asthma therefore belongs to the subgroup of non-allergic asthma.

Beta-blockers can also trigger asthma attacks. However, this is not a hypersensitivity reaction but a side effect. The reason for this is that certain beta-blockers can lead to a narrowing of receptors in the airways. The use of beta blockers in patients with known bronchial asthma should therefore only be used with increased caution and only if absolutely necessary.

These are the symptoms that tell me if I’m having an asthma attack

An asthma attack typically occurs relatively suddenly. People who have been suffering from bronchial asthma for a long time often know relatively precisely what the trigger was. The asthma attack typically begins with a sudden cough, wheezing and shortness of breath.

This shortness of breath usually turns into increasing shortness of breath within a few minutes. The shortness of breath particularly affects exhalation, which is more difficult than inhalation. A feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest can also occur.

Often an upright, sitting position with arms supported on the knees helps to improve breathing somewhat. Also, a tip of the lips during exhalation reduces the feeling of breathlessness a little (lip brake). So if an attack occurs with sudden shortness of breath, coughing and primarily obstructed exhalation, this is an indication of an asthma attack. More rarely, however, an anaphylactic shock, i.e. the maximum form of an allergic reaction, can be accompanied by sudden, rapidly increasing shortness of breath. Here, however, inhalation is more affected than exhalation.