An asthma attack can be a terrifying experience. It can feel as if someone is sitting on your chest or there’s a cloud in your lungs. You struggle to draw in a full breath. Your chest tightens. Your breathing quickens.
It feels, as one asthma sufferer put it, “like you’re drowning in air.”
Asthma is an inflammation and obstruction of the bronchial tubes — the passages that allow air to enter and leave the lungs. During an asthma attack, the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes constrict, narrowing the air passages and making it extremely difficult to breathe. Other common symptoms are wheezing and a rattling sound in the chest.
The duration of an attack can vary, depending on what caused it and how long the airways have been inflamed. Mild episodes may last only a few minutes; more severe ones can last from hours to days. Mild attacks can resolve spontaneously or may require medication, typically a quick-acting inhaler. More severe asthma attacks can be shortened with appropriate treatment.