“It’s all too easy to get used to coughing a lot, or wheezing, or using your reliever three or more times a week. But these are all early warning signs of an asthma attack so don’t ignore them,” says Asthma UK in-house GP Dr Andy Whittamore.
On this page:
Spot the signs your asthma is getting worse
Take action now to lower your risk of an asthma attack
Your GP or asthma nurse can help your asthma symptoms
Why have your asthma symptoms got worse?
Watch: Symptoms getting worse
If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms see your GP or asthma nurse as soon as you can.
They can help you get your symptoms under control.
- I feel more breathless
- I’m coughing more
- I haven’t been sleeping as well
- My chest feels tighter
- I’m wheezing more
- I’ve been using my blue reliever inhaler more than usual
- My asthma is stopping me from doing everyday things like going to work, housework, playing with children, walking the dog …
How often do you use your reliever inhaler?
Did you know that using your reliever inhaler three times a week or more is a sign that your asthma is not well controlled. See your GP or asthma nurse for an asthma review as soon as you can.
If you’re getting more asthma symptoms it’s a sign that your airways are getting more inflamed and narrow. This makes it harder for air to get through and means an asthma attack is more likely.
The sooner you can treat the inflammation in your airways, the sooner you can lower your risk of an asthma attack.
See your doctor today
- Ask the receptionist for an urgent same day appointment. Tell them your asthma’s getting worse and you need to see a GP or asthma nurse for urgent advice to avoid having an asthma attack.
- If you can’t get an urgent same day appointment, or your GP surgery is closed, call 111 for advice. They may be able to arrange for you to be seen at a walk-in centre or by an out of hours doctor.
There’s a lot your GP or asthma nurse can do to help stop symptoms building up to an asthma attack. Book an appointment now to get the support you need to lower your risk.
Your GP/asthma nurse can:
- Talk to you about why your asthma symptoms have got worse
- Check you’re taking your preventer medicine every day. If you haven’t been taking it regularly, they can suggest ways to get into a good routine with it so it’s easier to remember.
- Look at your inhaler technique to make sure you’re getting the medicine you need
- Suggest a higher dose, or more puffs, of your preventer inhaler for a while
- Consider a change of medicines, or a new type of inhaler device
- Prescribe a short course of oral steroids
- Give advice about allergies like hay fever which can make your symptoms worse
- Update your asthma action plan so you can feel confident you know what to do every day to stay well, and what action to take when your symptoms get worse.
Before your appointment, have a think about your symptoms and why you think they’ve got worse. It’ll help you and your GP to work out what’s going on with your asthma.
Ask yourself these questions to help you:
Have I been taking my preventer inhaler every day?
Preventer medicines stop inflammation building up in your airways. But they can only do this if you take them every day.
If you stop taking them you won’t have full protection. And your symptoms will come back.
Have you been taking yours every day? Or have you found it hard to get into a good routine?
Do I know the best way to take my inhalers?
Even if you’ve been taking an inhaler for years, it’s easy to slip into bad habits. If you haven’t been taking your inhaler correctly you will have been missing out on the full dose of asthma medicine.
Are you confident you’re taking your inhalers in the right way? Watch our inhaler videos to see if you’re doing it right. And ask your GP or asthma nurse to check it at your appointment.
Have I been around more of my usual asthma triggers?
Maybe you’ve caught a cold, or it’s pollen season and your hay fever’s bad. Think about your usual triggers and if they might be affecting you more.
Have I come across a new trigger?
Have you been around an animal or pet? Did you start a new job, or go on holiday? Tell your doctor if you’ve spotted a new trigger. They can help you deal with it.
What else has been going on in my life lately?
Think about when you first noticed symptoms getting worse. Was there something stressful going on? Was there a big family event, or upset, or something happening at work?
Stress and emotions can be triggers for your asthma symptoms too.
Have I noticed hormonal changes?
Asthma symptoms can get worse for some women before and during your period, during pregnancy, and around the menopause.
Your GP or asthma nurse can help you manage your asthma during times of hormonal change.
Contact the Asthma UK Helpline for more support
If you’re worried about your asthma symptoms you can contact our Helpline on 0300 222 5800, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.
Video: Signs that your asthma is getting worseSpecialist asthma nurse Suzanne talks through some typical signs that your asthma is getting worse and what to do about it.
Transcript for ‘Signs that your asthma is getting worse’
0:00 Asthma attacks rarely happen out of the blue.
0:03 They often take a few days to build up.
0:07 Asthma is different for everybody.
0:10 By learning how to recognise when your asthma symptoms are getting worse,
0:14 it’ll help you to stay in control.
0:18 So, signs that your asthma is getting worse are variable.
0:23 The most common sort of signs are you may feel some wheezing,
0:26 you may have a cough, you may find a tightness in your chest.
0:32 If you keep a peak flow diary, you may find that your peak flow scores are reducing a bit.
0:38 You may also find that you’re using your blue reliever inhaler more frequently than you usually would.
0:45 If your symptoms continue to be worse and you’re using your blue inhaler a lot,
0:52 then please do call us on the helpline or contact us by email,
0:56 especially if you’re not sure what to do next.
0:59 We can discuss what’s been going on with you
1:01 and make a plan for a way forward.
1:05 If you are using your preventer inhaler as prescribed,
1:09 every day, even when you’re well and using really good inhaler technique,
1:14 and despite this, your asthma symptoms are getting worse,
1:18 it’s a good idea to see your GP.
Last updated June 2020
Next review due June 2023