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What is acute asthma?

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Acute asthma is a sudden flare-up of asthmatic symptoms. This condition is typically attributed to an upper respiratory tract infection or a direct contact with allergens, states WebMD.

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In the United States, acute asthma accounts for an annual estimate of 15 million cases of outpatient therapy, 2 million emergency room visitations and 500,000 hospital admissions, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health. The severity of a patient's condition during a sudden onset of asthma, including the type of medical treatment required, depends on how effectively the underlying asthma is being managed.

Acute asthma exacerbations result in escalating breathing difficulty, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness due to reductions in the amount of air being expelled from the lungs. These attacks may be treatable by on-hand quick-relief remedies, such as inhaled bronchodilators or asthma inhalers. People may also seek medical treatment as outpatients at a health care facility, since the majority of exacerbations do not further require hospitalization. However, there are instances when acute asthma flare-ups become unresponsive to the usual forms of treatment.

An acute, severe asthma attack, medically referred to as "status asthmaticus," is a more pronounced and often life-threatening form of an asthma flare-up. Patients who experience this type of asthmatic episode require emergency medical treatment that usually results in hospitalization.

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