Asthma Emergency

Many asthma attacks can be treated by avoiding triggers and by using reliever therapy.

Unfortunately, asthma can still be fatal. Here we discuss some useful things to look out for and recognise when an asthma attack is not improving.

It is useful to have a written action plan by your doctor.

If you feel:

Tightness in Chest



Difficulty Breathing


Take a puff of the reliever straight away. If accessible, use a peak flow meter to measure how well your lungs are able to expel air.


You need to seek medical help IMMEDIATELY if:

  • Your reliever isn’t helping despite having used it twice
  • Symptoms are worsening (breathlessness, cough, wheeze)
  • You just “don’t feel right”
  • You are unable to sleep or eat
  • You are unable to complete a sentence
  • You are getting very tired
  • Peak flows less than 50% of normal, or consistently below 80% despite several days of treatment

Do not drive by yourself - get a friend or relative to take you to the hospital or call an ambulance. Whilst waiting for an ambulance, do not lie down, sit up straight and you can take 1 puff of your reliever every 30 seconds, up to 10 puffs.

If you have been given oral steroids to keep at home, take them immediately and inform the doctor.

Controlling Asthma

Asthma does NOT control you, in fact you can control your asthma. People with asthma CAN have normal, active lives once they have learned to control their asthma. This can be done in just a few ways:

  • Understand what is asthma
  • Recognise your triggers and signs of an attack
  • Take your medications regularly
  • Make sure you have an asthma action plan
  • Have you been waking at night with any asthma symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath or wheezing)?
  • Are you using your reliever medication more than three times a week?
  • Do you get wheezy or breathless during the day?
  • Does your asthma affect your daily activities?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then your asthma my not be as well controlled as it should be. 

You must first of all, understand what is asthma. Then, you need to recognise your triggers and signs of an asthma attack. Even with well-controlled asthma, you may still on occasion experience an asthma flare-up and suffer an attack

Some asthma attacks can be mild whilst others are extremely serious. People can die from a severe asthma attack.

Once you understand your asthma and its triggers you need to have the right medication.

You need to know:

  • When to take it
  • How much to take each time
  • The correct inhaler technique

You need a proper assessment by a doctor so that they can make sure you are receiving the right amount and right type of medication for you.

Asthma Action Plan
An asthma action plan is a written set of instructions that tells you what medications you need to take for your asthma every day. It makes it easier for you to measure whether your asthma is under control and it lets you know what steps to take when it is not.

Having an asthma action plan that you have discussed with your doctor means that you will have more control of your asthma.

Studies have shown that with an asthma action plan you are four times less likely to have an asthma attack that requires hospital treatment.

Download our asthma action plan here.

Peak Flow Test
Peak flow is a measurement of how swiftly you can blow air out of your lungs. It is used to help diagnose and monitor asthma. A peak flow test involves blowing as hard as you can into a small, hand-held device called a peak flow meter.

Download our peak flow diary here.