What should you do if you suspect a person is having an acute asthma attack or an exacerbation? Symptoms can get worse quickly or over a period of time.

If they:

  • Get no relief from their inhaler.
  • Notice a sudden worsening of symptoms.
  • Are too breathless to talk, eat or sleep.
  • Are getting exhausted.

Follow the guide below. Remember asthma can be fatal if not treated quickly.

  • Sit the person up straight, do not lie them down.
  • Try to stay calm and reassure the person.
  • If the person feels worse at any point or if after using their inhaler they are no better, call 999 for an ambulance.
  • Give 1 puff of reliever inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds for up to 10 puffs. Use a spacer with the inhaler if they have one.
  • If you have to wait longer than 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, repeat the 1 puff of reliever every minute up to 10 puffs.


  • Even if symptoms settle make an urgent appointment to see a GP or specialist asthma nurse, if possible on the same day.
  • If they have an asthma action plan, follow this until they see their GP or specialist asthma nurse as soon as possible.