Asthma

Self Care

Asthma attacks kill three people each day. The UK has one of the highest asthma death rates in Europe. Yet many of these deaths could be avoided.

Controlling your asthma Visit your doctor at least once a year for a check-up and to discuss asthma treatment options.

Read our information on asthma treatment

If you’re on the right asthma treatment, your chance of having an asthma attack is greatly reduced. Visit your doctor at least once a year for a check-up and to discuss asthma treatment options.

Is it an asthma attack?

You can tell you’re having an asthma attack if:

  • your reliever inhaler isn’t helping
  • your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest)
  • you’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
  • your breathing may get faster and it feels like you can’t get your breath in properly
  • children may complain of a tummy ache

Often, using your reliever inhaler (normally a blue or blue and white inhaler) will be enough to relieve your symptoms when you start having an attack. But sometimes symptoms are more severe and urgent action is needed.

If you are not getting any relief from your inhaler, if you cannot speak in full sentences because of breathlessness, if you feel you cannot get enough air into your chest   or if you are getting tired because you are so breathless follow the steps outlined below

What to do if you’re having an asthma attack

Asthma UK’s guidelines for children and adults having an asthma attack are to:

  1. Take one to two puffs of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) immediately.
  2. Sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths.
  3. 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 10 puffs.
  4. If you don’t feel better after taking your inhaler as above, or if you are worried at any time, call 999.
  5. If an ambulance doesn’t arrive within 10 minutes and you are still feeling unwell, repeat step 3.

If your symptoms improve and you don’t need to call 999, you still need to see a GP or asthma nurse within 24 hours.

After an asthma attack

Asthma UK advises that you should make an appointment with your doctor or asthma nurse within 48 hours of your attack.

Preventing asthma attacks

Most people who have asthma attacks will have warning signs for a few days before the attack.

These include having to use your blue reliever inhaler more often, changes in your peak flow meter readings, and increased symptoms, such as waking up in the night.

Don’t ignore these warning signs as they indicate that your asthma control is poor and you risk having a severe attack.

Follow your personal asthma action plan. If your symptoms continue to get worse, make an urgent appointment to see your doctor or asthma nurse.

Never be frightened of calling for help in an emergency.

It’s important that friends and family know how to help in an emergency. Asthma UK provides a free Asthma Attack Card, which helps you learn to recognise an asthma attack and explains what to do in that situation.

This includes helping the person having the attack to sit up comfortably, talking to them to calm them, helping them use their reliever treatment, and calling for help if their condition doesn’t improve.

What to do if you’re having an asthma attack

Asthma UK’s guidelines for children and adults having an asthma attack are to:

  1. Take one to two puffs of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) immediately.
  2. Sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths.
  3. 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 10 puffs.
  4. If you don’t feel better after taking your inhaler as above, or if you are worried at any time, call 999.
  5. If an ambulance doesn’t arrive within 10 minutes and you are still feeling unwell, repeat step 3.

If your symptoms improve and you don’t need to call 999, you still need to see a GP or asthma nurse within 24 hours.

After an asthma attack

Asthma UK advises that you should make an appointment with your doctor or asthma nurse within 48 hours of your attack.

Never be frightened of calling for help in an emergency.