Asthma emergency

  • If you, or someone near you is having difficulty breathing, this may be an asthma emergency. Call an Ambulance on 000. Commence Asthma First Aid and continue until emergency services arrive.

    1 in 10 Australian people have asthma, across all ages. Any person with asthma can have a flare-up of asthma symptoms at any time. Having good control of your asthma means this is less likely to happen, but it can still happen. An asthma flare-up is a worsening of asthma symptoms. A sudden or severe flare-up is often called an asthma attack.

    How do I know if I’m having an asthma flare-up or attack?

    You are having an asthma flare-up or attack if your asthma symptoms are getting worse and they do not go away when you use your blue/grey reliever or they return within minutes to hours. An asthma flare-up or attack may develop very rapidly over a few minutes, or it may take a few hours or even days to happen. An asthma flare-up or attack may be mild, moderate, severe or life threatening.

    Signs of an asthma flare-up can include any of the following:

         

    Mild/moderate 

    Minor difficulty breathing

    Able to talk in full sentences

    Able to walk/move around

    May have cough or wheeze

    Ask the person if they have asthma and if they need help.

    If so, assist the person with Asthma First Aid.

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    Severe

    Obvious difficulty breathing

    Cannot speak a full sentence in one breath

    Tugging in of the skin between ribs or at base of neck

    May have cough or wheeze

    Reliever medication not lasting as long as usual

    Call Ambulance on 000

    Commence Asthma First Aid 

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    Life threatening

    Gasping for breath

    Unable to speak or 1-2 words per breath

    Confused or exhausted

    Turning blue

    Collapsing

    May no longer have wheeze or cough

    Not responding to reliever medication

    Call Ambulance on 000

    Commence Asthma First Aid


    As well as experiencing some of the above symptoms, young children may appear restless, unable to settle and may have problems eating or drinking. They may also have severe coughing or vomiting. Young children with an asthma flare-up may only complain of a sore or tight feeling in their tummy or chest, or a funny feeling or 'frog' in their throat.

    What do I do?

    Asthma First Aid is very safe. Everyone can learn Asthma First Aid. Do not wait until someone's asthma is severe to start Asthma First Aid. There is a standard asthma first aid procedure that is safe for both adults and children to follow, and it’s important that you and others around you know how to recognise an asthma attack, and know what to do to help. Stay calm, and start first aid as quickly as possible.

    If you are using Symbicort as a reliever and preventer, the first aid procedure is different, and you need to use the Symbicort SMART first aid.

    If the person having the attack doesn’t improve, or you are very worried, you should call an ambulance, and continue to use asthma first aid while you are waiting for it to arrive. If they get better after first aid treatment, you should stay with them and monitor them for some time to make sure they don’t get worse again.

    What happens if I have to go into hospital?

    Your treatment in hospital will depend on your asthma and your symptoms. Some people are only in hospital for a few hours, and others have to stay for a few days. See our asthma in hospital section for more information.

    After an asthma attack

    Even if an asthma attack has been successfully treated without needing to call an ambulance, you should be reviewed by a doctor as soon as possible. It is important to understand why the asthma attack occurred and whether anything can be done to prevent it happening again in the future. An asthma flare-up or attack may indicate poor or partial control of asthma and your doctor may need to adjust your regular asthma medications and update your written asthma action plan.

    Need more information?

    Contact our Information Line to talk to a trained health professional. Call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or use our online form. Want to know what your AsthmaScore is? Take our quick and easy Asthma Control Test online today!

Please let us know which state you are in so we can provide you with the most relevant information: