Asthma is characterised by day-to-day variation in symptoms. Sometimes a person’s symptoms progressively worsen over time, and lung function decreases, to the extent that a change in their treatment is needed to avoid serious outcomes. This worsening may occur over minutes or hours (Elliot et al. 2009), but more often over several days or sometimes even weeks. Significant worsenings are termed asthma attacks.
Attacks (also called flare-ups or exacerbations) are common in uncontrolled asthma, including in patients with severe asthma. They are commonly associated with eosinophilic inflammation in the airways (Jayaram et al. 2006). Virus infections are also a common cause of lung attacks and these are associated with neutrophilic inflammation in the airways (Wark et al. 2002).