Sometimes, no matter how careful you are about taking your asthma medicines and avoiding your triggers, you may find that you have an asthma attack.
Please note this asthma attack information is not designed for people using a Symbicort inhaler on the Symbicort SMART regime. If you are on the Symbicort SMART regime, please speak to your doctor or asthma nurse about this.
What to do in an asthma attack
The following guidelines are suitable for both children and adults and are the recommended steps to follow in an asthma attack:
- Take one to two puffs of your reliever inhaler (usually blue), immediately.
- Sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths.
- If you do not start to feel better, take two puffs of your reliever inhaler (one puff at a time) every two minutes. You can take up to ten puffs.
- If you do not feel better after taking your inhaler as above, or if you are worried at any time, call 999.
- If an ambulance does not arrive within 10 minutes and you are still feeling unwell, repeat step 3.
If your symptoms improve and you do not need to call 999, you still need to see a doctor or asthma nurse within 24 hours.
You can order a free, pocket size 'What to do in an asthma attack' card to carry with you here.
You're having an asthma attack if any of the following happens:
- Your reliever inhaler does not help.
- Your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest).
- You are too breathless to speak, eat or sleep.
Do not be afraid of causing a fuss, even at night. If you go to A&E (accident and emergency) or are admitted to hospital, take details of your medicines with you if possible.
After an emergency asthma attack:
- Make an appointment with your doctor or asthma nurse for an asthma review, within 48 hours of your attack.
- You will also need another review within one or two weeks to review your current asthma treatment and ensure your asthma is well controlled.
Do not ignore worsening symptoms
Asthma attacks are the result of gradual worsening of symptoms over a few days that you may not have noticed. Things to look out for are:
Needing to use your reliever inhaler more than three times a week may suggest that your asthma is not as well controlled as it could be.
Think about it - if your asthma symptoms are getting worse or you're using your reliever inhaler more, don't ignore it.
If your symptoms continue to get worse, make an urgent appointment to see your doctor or asthma nurse within 24 hours.