A severe asthma emergency is frightening and life-threatening. The symptoms of asthma continue despite the use of asthma rescue inhalers and other asthma medications. A severe asthma emergency, or an anaphylactic attack, can occur with little warning and can quickly move to asphyxiation.

Symptoms might include breathlessness at rest, high anxiety, wheezing during inhalation and exhalation, severe shortness of breath, chest tightness, and difficulty speaking in complete sentences. When these symptoms and signs occur, don’t hesitate to quickly dial 911 for an ambulance. The ambulance crew will immediately provide you with oxygen and nebulized bronchodilators. They will also monitor the level of oxygen in your blood (using a pulse oximeter), and your heart rhythm (using an ECGmonitor). And during the trip, they can talk with a doctor in the emergency department for further lifesaving treatment. None of this monitoring or emergency treatment is available if you get a ride to the emergency department or use public transportation.