Hundreds call Asthma UK’s Helpline while having life-threatening asthma attack

Date: 27 September 2017

Hundreds of people are ringing Asthma UK’s Helpline while unaware they are havinga potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

The charity’s specialist nurses, told 378 callers between October 2015 and July 2017 to go to A&E or seek urgent care because they were having an asthma attack.

Asthma UK is concerned that people with asthma mistakenly believe that their symptoms are not serious. In fact, in 2016 1,370 people died of an asthma attack in England, Scotland and Wales.

Sonia Munde, Head of Helpline and Nurse Manager at Asthma UK, said: “A lot of people with asthma aren’t sure their symptoms are bad enough to go to hospital or their GP, so they are ringing us looking for someone to validate the seriousness of the issue.

“They might not want to go to hospital or may not be able to get an appointment with their GP, but if a person is wheezing, short of breath or can’t speak in full sentences we push them to seek urgent medical help.

“It’s important for people to understand that an asthma attack is a medical emergency and needs to be taken seriously. Asthma UK’s Helpline is here to support you, your families and friends, and healthcare professionals, whether you’re looking for tailored advice and information on diagnosis, treatment, managing symptoms or dealing with the side effects of asthma medicines.”

Asthma UK is urging people with asthma to familiarise themselves with the warning signs of an asthma attack.

You're having an asthma attack if any of the following happens:

  • Your reliever isn't helping or lasting over four hours
  • Your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest)
  • You're too breathless or it's difficult to speak, eat or sleep
  • Your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you can't get your breath in properly

If you are having an asthma attack you should*:

  1. Sit up straight - don't lie down. Try to keep calm
  2. Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs
  3. If you feel worse at any point while you're using your inhaler or you don't feel better after 10 puffs or you're worried at any time, call 999 for an ambulance
  4. If the ambulance is taking longer than 15 minutes you can repeat step 2

Asthma UK’s Helpline provides independent confidential advice from asthma specialists on 0300 222 5800 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

Between October 2015 and July 2017 the helpline answered 13,000 calls.


For more information please contact the Asthma UK media team on, 020 7786 4949 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

Notes to Editors:

For more information, please contact the Asthma UK media team on, 020 7786 4949 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

* This asthma attack information is not designed for people on a SMART or MART regime. People on a SMART or MART regime should speak to their GP or asthma nurse to get the correct asthma attack information.

About Asthma UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.
  • The Asthma UK Helpline is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0300 222 5800.

For more information about asthma please visit