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Asthma Attacks

During an asthma flare-up, your airways can get so blocked that your lungs may not be able to provide enough oxygen to your body or remove enough carbon dioxide. This can be dangerous if left untreated. Whether your asthma is mild, moderate or severe, it needs to be taken seriously and managed properly.

What do do when your asthma gets out of control

Mild Asthma Attack

If any of the following occur:

  • Continuous coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing (whistling sound in chest)
  • Person may also be restless, irritable and/or very tired

STEP 1: Immediately use fast-acting reliever inhaler (usually a blue inhaler). Use a spacer if provided.

STEP 2: Check symptoms. Only return to normal activity when all symptoms are gone. If symptoms get worse or do not improve within 10 minutes, this is an emergency – follow steps below.

Asthma Emergency

If any of the following occur:

  • Breathing is difficult and fast
  • Cannot speak in full sentences
  • Lips or nail beds are blue or gray
  • Skin on neck or chest sucked in with each breath
  • Person may also be anxious, restless and/or very tired

STEP 1: Immediately use fast-acting reliever inhaler (usually a blue inhaler). Use a spacer if provided. CALL 911 for an ambulance.

STEP 2: If symptoms continue, use reliever inhaler every 5-15 minutes until medical help arrives.

While waiting for medical help to arrive:

  • Have person sit up with arms resting on a table (do not have person lie down unless it is an anaphylactic reaction).
  • Do not have person breathe into a bag.
  • Stay calm, reassure the person, and stay by his/her side.
  • Notify emergency contact if known.

After you’ve had a worsening of your asthma or an asthma attack, make an appointment with your health-care provider. There may be a need to adjust the doses of your medications. You can also discuss possible reasons why your asthma got out of control and find ways to prevent this in the future.

Download or order the Managing Asthma Attacks poster.