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What is an asthma attack?

30th April 2020

Someone has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack every 10 seconds, so it’s important you’re able to spot on, treat them and keep them at bay.

What is an asthma attack?

An asthma attack is when your asthma symptoms get significantly worse, such as wheezing, breathlessness, and a tight chest. It may feel like you can’t catch your breath or like you’re too breathless to speak.

Despite the associations with the word ‘attack’ this doesn’t always happen suddenly. Sometimes, it can come on slowly over a number of hours or days.

In cases of an asthma attack, you may also find that your blue reliever inhaler (such as Ventolin or Salamol) may not help or relieve the problem.

What to do if you have an asthma attack

If you think you’re having an asthma attack then try to stay calm and take slow, steady breaths, Don’t lie down, but instead remain sitting upright and take a puff of your reliever inhaler. Do this every 30-60 seconds up to a maximum of 10 puffs.

If your inhaler starts to make you feel better then don’t brush off the incident. You should get a same-day emergency appointment with your GP or asthma nurse - it may be that your care plan needs to be reviewed.

If you don’t feel any better after 10 puffs, if the inhaler has made you feel worse or if you don’t have your inhaler with you then you should call 999 for an ambulance. Never be afraid to ask for help in an emergency.

Whether or not you end up needing to go to hospital, you should arrange an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse as soon as possible. Approximately 1 in 6 people treated in hospital for an asthma attack need hospital care again within 2 weeks, making it so important to discuss your condition with your doctor.

How to prevent asthma attacks

When it comes to asthma, it’s important that your condition is correctly managed to avoid any asthma tracks and to try and prevent any emergency trips to the hospital.

You should always take your medicines exactly as prescribed and be familiar with your personal asthma action plan. Be sure to attend your review, which should take place once a year with your GP or asthma nurse.

It’s also not only important that you take your medicines as prescribed, but also that you take them correctly. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re using your inhaler correctly, double check the patient information leaflet enclosed with your medicines and always check with your doctor or nurse if you’re unsure.

Where you can, try to avoid things that trigger your symptoms and don’t ignore them if they’re getting worse. If you notice that you’re using your Ventolin more often than usual then it’s worth speaking to your GP.

If you’re running low on your preventer or reliever inhalers then you can order them after an online consultation at UK Meds. Your request will be reviewed by a prescriber and if successful, your medicine can be delivered to your door the very next day.