What to do after an asthma attack

How to feel better faster – and prevent another attack.

One in six people who have emergency treatment for an asthma attack have another attack within two weeks. Cut your risk of being one of them. Take these three simple steps to stay well:

1. Book an urgent appointment with your GP or asthma nurse – even if you feel well
See them within 48 hours of your attack if you can. Tell them you need an urgent appointment because you've had an asthma attack. If your asthma symptoms are getting worse at any point, book an appointment with your GP today.

2. Keep taking your asthma medicines as prescribed
"Preventer medicines will take down the swelling in your airways. This will make your airways less sensitive to asthma triggers. It will also reduce your symptoms," says Asthma UK specialist nurse Kathy. 

3. Plan recovery time into your day
After an asthma attack it's important to try and rest as much as you need to. Ask friends and family to help with the kids, or get signed off work by your doctor. Everyone's different so it's important to do what's right for you. Lots of people do feel physically and emotionally tired.

Make an urgent appointment with your GP or asthma nurse if any one of these happened to you:

  • You managed an emergency by using your blue inhaler
    If you dealt with an asthma attack by using up to 10 puffs of your blue inhaler but didn't need to call an ambulance, you still need to see your GP. Your GP or asthma nurse needs to check you're well and review your medicines.
  • You went to hospital, or called an ambulance
    You still need to book a follow-up appointment with your GP or asthma nurse within 48 hours of leaving the hospital or being treated by paramedics. Your GP can check your notes and give you personal recovery advice. 
  • If you had an asthma attack over two weeks ago but didn't see your GP at the time
    It is still important to see your doctor or asthma nurse. Your asthma may still not be well controlled. You could be at risk of another asthma attack without realising. 
  • You used any of your 'rescue pack' of steroid pills
    If your asthma got bad enough that you had to take steroid pills your GP gave you, see your GP or asthma nurse. This counts as an asthma attack.

What your GP can do to help you in the first two weeks

"You may feel this is a fuss about nothing, or that there's not much your GP or nurse can do," says Kathy. "But talking to your GP about what happened and how you feel means they can help you. Even changing your medicine dose or tweaking your inhaler technique can help cut your risk of another attack."

In this urgent appointment, your doctor can:

  • give you a clear recovery plan for the next two weeks 
  • prescribe a week of oral steroid tablets (prednisolone) that will help reduce airway sensitivity and inflammation. Most people will be prescribed these to take alongside their existing asthma medicines.
  • check you are no longer at immediate risk of an asthma attack – especially important if you didn't go to hospital.
  • review your existing medicines and asthma action plan in case a change of dose or tweak of inhaler technique could help.
  • update your records to show you have had an attack. 

After this appointment

  • Keep taking your medicines and looking after yourself in the way you've agreed with your doctor or asthma nurse.
  • Track your symptoms during this time – making notes using your phone is a simple way to build up a useful record.
If your symptoms are getting worse at any time after this appointment, book another appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Go to an NHS walk-in centre if no appointments are available.
  • If you still have symptoms after you've finished a course of oral steroid pills that your GP prescribed in your first appointment, book a follow-up appointment with them. "They will likely want to extend your course of steroid tablets by another week," says Kathy. 

Last updated January 2019
Next review due January 2022