Having an asthma attack can be a bit scary. As airways narrow in response to asthma triggers (be it pollen, secondhand smoke, or cat dander), you may experience rapid, shallow breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Attacks can range in intensity from mild to severe; in severe cases, an asthma attack could be a medical emergency.
However, most mild asthma attacks should respond to treatment with an inhaler or nebulizer containing a bronchodilator, known as rescue medication (the best-known bronchodilator is called albuterol).
If you have asthma that is more severe, your doctor will probably prescribe controller or maintenance medications that can fight the underlying lung inflammation. Taking these medication can help prevent asthma attacks. However, you will need to take them every day; what’s more, such drugs wont relieve symptoms once they get started—rescue medications should be used to treat the symptoms of an asthma attack.