The 1997 Expert Panel Report 2 from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program* details principles and goals for managing asthma exacerbations, based on scientific literature and the opinion of the panel. The panel's recommendations are summarized here, along with approaches to the evaluation and management of patients with asthma exacerbations. Methods to assess and classify the severity of asthma exacerbations are discussed, and treatment objectives for mild, moderate, and severe exacerbations are presented, along with a discussion of postinfectious acute airway hyperresponsiveness. A review of pharmacologic agents used in the treatment of asthma exacerbations is also included. Key points in the management of asthma exacerbations include the notion that early treatment is the best strategy for management. Important elements of early treatment include recognition of early signs of worsening asthma, a written action plan to guide patient self-management, appropriate intensification of therapy, and prompt communication between patient and provider about deterioration in asthma control. Other key points include the use of inhaled β2-adrenergic agonists to provide prompt relief of airflow obstruction, the early use of systemic corticosteroids for patients with moderate to severe exacerbations or for patients who fail to respond promptly and completely to an inhaled β2-adrenergic agonist, and monitoring response to therapy with serial measurements of lung function.
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