Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Asthma health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Status asthmaticus

Status asthmaticus is a potentially fatal asthma attack that doesn't respond to usual inhaled bronchodilator treatment.

Status asthmaticus is a medical emergency.

What are the symptoms of status asthmaticus?

The symptoms of status asthmaticus may include persistent shortness of breath and the inability to speak in full sentences. You may have breathlessness even while lying in bed. Your chest may feel closed and your lips may have a bluish tint. In addition, you may feel agitation, confusion, or an inability to concentrate. You may hunch your shoulders, sit or stand up to breathe more easily, and strain your abdominal and neck muscles. These are signs of impending respiratory system failure.

You may not have more wheezing and coughing with status asthmaticus. In fact, the presence of wheezing or coughing is not a reliable standard for judging the severity of an asthma attack. Very severe asthma attacks such as status asthmaticus may affect breathing airways so much that the lack of air in and out of your lungs does not cause a wheezing sound or coughing.

Are there warning signs of status asthmaticus?

Status asthmaticus often occurs with few warning signs. It can happen quickly and progress rapidly to asphyxiation. Some findings show that patients with status asthmaticus have poor control of allergens or asthma triggers in the home or workplace. These people may also have infrequent use of a peak flow monitor and inhaled corticosteroids. Inhaled steroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that are highly effective in reducing inflammation associated with asthma.

Does wheezing indicate status asthmaticus?

Wheezing does not necessarily indicate asthma. Wheezing can also be a sign of other health conditions, such as respiratory infection, heart failure, and other serious problems. Always seek medical advice if you have wheezing.

What causes status asthmaticus?

Whereas the causes of status asthmaticus are unknown, people who have status asthmaticus may have a history of infrequent health care, which may result in poor treatment of asthma. People with status asthmaticus may also have a history of intubation or hospitalisation for asthma. Also, those who have poor mental health or psychosocial stressors are at a higher risk of status asthmaticus. That's why ongoing monitoring of lung function using a peak flow meter is necessary in anyone who has persistent asthma.

How is status asthmaticus diagnosed?

To diagnose a severe asthma attack as status asthmaticus, your doctor will note physical findings such as your consciousness, fatigue, and the use of accessory muscles of breathing. Your doctor will note your respiration rate, wheezing during both inhalation and exhalation, and your pulse rate. Some other tests may include peak expiratory flow and oxygen saturation, among others. Other physical signs will be noted of the chest, mouth, pharynx, and upper airway.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Asthma newsletter

Get tips for breathing easier.
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
What your nails say about your health