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What is Status Asthmaticus?

Status Asthmaticus is a severe, life-threatening asthma attack that doesn't respond to standard treatments. It can cause symptoms like extreme shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. Understanding this condition is crucial, as it requires immediate medical attention. Have you ever wondered how this intense reaction differs from regular asthma attacks? Let's dive deeper into the causes and treatments.
D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

Status asthmaticus is a life-threatening, acute asthma attack that is not relieved by inhalers or other common treatment measures. The airways become inflamed and constricted to the point that breathing becomes very difficult, and an individual can potentially lose consciousness if the condition is not addressed right away. Once admitted into the emergency room, a patient is usually given oxygen and intravenous medications to reopen the airways. Following immediate treatment, a specialist can prescribe drugs to manage symptoms and inform the patient of ways to prevent future attacks.

Asthma is a very common condition in adults and children. Allergens, cold air, or intense exercise irritate the airways and trigger an immune system response that leads to inflammation and constriction. Most people who have asthma find relief from acute attacks by using bronchodilators, inhaled or oral drugs that ease inflammation and allow the respiratory tract to expand. In the case of status asthmaticus, however, the airways do not respond to bronchodilators. Swelling and constriction tend to worsen over the course of minutes or hours.

Status asthmaticus refers to an asthma attack that is unable to be relieved by use of an inhaler.
Status asthmaticus refers to an asthma attack that is unable to be relieved by use of an inhaler.

A person who experiences status asthmaticus is likely to suffer from intense chest tightness, shortness of breath, anxiety, and confusion. Coughing or wheezing may occur initially, and as the condition worsens, the lips and skin might turn blue. Without treatment, the lack of oxygen in the lungs and blood can cause dizziness, a loss of motor skills and unconsciousness. A person suffering from status asthmaticus needs to be evaluated at an emergency room as soon as possible to prevent fatal complications.

An unresponsive status asthmaticus patient may be placed on a mechanical ventilator to prevent total lung failure.
An unresponsive status asthmaticus patient may be placed on a mechanical ventilator to prevent total lung failure.

In the emergency room, doctors can administer oxygen and fluids to keep the patient stable. A doctor usually conducts an arterial blood gas test to assess oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. During the arterial blood gas test, a syringe is used to extract a blood sample from an artery, which is then analyzed by laboratory experts. A doctor may also conduct a chest x-ray to look for signs of pneumonia, obstructions, and other conditions that may complicate treatment.

Asthma is a very common condition in adults and children.
Asthma is a very common condition in adults and children.

Initial treatment measures for status asthmaticus involve administering intravenous bronchodilators and oral steroids to help open the airways. An unresponsive patient may be placed on a mechanical ventilator to prevent total lung failure. Once inflammation subsides and the patient can breathe on his or her own, specialists can conduct additional diagnostic tests to check for permanent damage to the respiratory tract.

Doctors often use chest X-rays to look for other conditions that might complicate treatment of status asthmaticus.
Doctors often use chest X-rays to look for other conditions that might complicate treatment of status asthmaticus.

Most people who receive emergency treatment for status asthmaticus experience full recoveries. Before leaving the hospital, a patient usually meets with a specialist who can determine his or her asthma triggers and suggest ways to better avoid them. A patient is usually prescribed daily oral medications to help manage symptoms and a high-strength bronchodilator inhaler to use if another attack occurs.

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    • Status asthmaticus refers to an asthma attack that is unable to be relieved by use of an inhaler.
      By: JPC-PROD
      Status asthmaticus refers to an asthma attack that is unable to be relieved by use of an inhaler.
    • An unresponsive status asthmaticus patient may be placed on a mechanical ventilator to prevent total lung failure.
      By: sudok1
      An unresponsive status asthmaticus patient may be placed on a mechanical ventilator to prevent total lung failure.
    • Asthma is a very common condition in adults and children.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Asthma is a very common condition in adults and children.
    • Doctors often use chest X-rays to look for other conditions that might complicate treatment of status asthmaticus.
      By: teresinagoia
      Doctors often use chest X-rays to look for other conditions that might complicate treatment of status asthmaticus.