Presents as an acute or subacute episode of progressive worsening of symptoms, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, and chest tightness.
Pulse rate, respiratory rate, subjective assessment of respiratory distress, accessory muscle use, and auscultation of the lung fields are key factors to assess during physical exam.
An increased airway obstruction that can be quantified objectively by peak flow measurement or FEV1 is typical in an acute exacerbation.
Early administration of bronchodilators and corticosteroids relieves airflow obstruction and helps to prevent future relapses. Severe exacerbations often require additional therapy including oxygen, magnesium, and, in some circumstances, mechanical ventilation.
Pneumonia, pneumothorax, pneumomediastinum, and respiratory failure are complications.
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