You should go back in to see your doctor or a nurse and have them explain things to you. It sounds like you don't really understand what asthma is, how to recognize an attack, or what to do about it. I am assuming that they gave you medications (inhalers) to take, but it doesn't sound like they told you much about them. Go back in to your doc and get all of your questions answered (or, see a different doc, since this one doesn't seem to care much about patient education).
In general, an asthma attack is a tight feeling in the chest, wheezing, difficulty breathing. If you have this, you should take the medications you were prescribed according to the directions on the label. (Generally, if it is an inhaler, breathe out completely, breathe in slowly and deeply while pushing the thingy to make it puff, then hold your breath for a few seconds and breathe out through your mouth.)
But you really need to see a doctor or nurse to get more educated about asthma and have all of your questions answered. Good luck.
To be truthful, I am similar. I understand what asthma is from reading and experience, but no one really told me what it was about in detail. I learned that on my own. I would call an attack just asthma symptoms. Now I am starting to realize that I have frequent attacks, not just symptoms. It is hard to tell a full blown attack from just having symptoms, unless you are having a severe attack. I would suggest that you read up on the symptoms of asthma, and get to know your body, and what triggers you. And I also Thank Kehorner for replying to this post. It help me understand things better.