Retractions are one of those severe symptoms of an asthma attack. It's when you are having such a hard time breathing, that you are using other muscles to help, and the skin sucks in around your collar bone and along your ribs. You can see the collar bone sticking out each time you try to take a breathe and you can see the skin tighten over the rib cage.
It's a BAD sign and you need to get to the hospital-FAST! A call to 911 would be a good idea.
If you want to see a photo of what it looks like, click here. The Webmd website has a slide show called "Signs of a Pending Asthma Attack." It has 10 very helpful photos and tips about asthma.
I have actually seen retractions on Son #2 once, it was one of the many times he ended up in the hospital-only that time he was listed in ICU. (Intensive Care Unit) It was something I never want to see again. He was sick and I had just given him a breathing treatment with the nebulizer and I was rinsing out the canister in the kitchen. I walked back into the living room and saw his stomach suck WAY in, the skin was stretched tight against the rib cage (I could see each rib individually) and his collar bone was sticking out. I ran closer to look at him, and he was very pale and his lips were a dark burgundy color. He looked bad. I got him in the car and drove as fast as I could to the closest Emergency Room (BIG mistake-I should have called 911)
There was a flurry of activity around him in the hospital, and they had the "crash cart" parked outside his hospital room. They wanted it close by so if he stopped breathing, they could quickly resuscitate him. Nice thought, huh?
Asthma is very different. Some people have mild asthma, some have moderate asthma, some have severe. They all can have different triggers (or things that cause asthma attacks), are treated with different medications and can have different symptoms. The following quote is from the Webmd website.
They also list chest and neck retractions, and blue/grey lips or fingernails.
Other Signs of Asthma EmergenciesIf you notice any of the following, get emergency help at once:
- difficulty talking
- inability to exhale or inhale
- shortness of breath
- feelings of anxiety or panic
- coughing that won't stop
- pale, sweaty face
Hopefully you never have to experience any of these, or see these signs in a loved one. But if you do, get help FAST!!!