Updated 09 January 2019

What to do in an asthma emergency

Asthma can be life threatening. Being well prepared is the best defense.

An asthma attack can be dangerous. Don’t be caught off guard.

Follow these steps:

1. Know the early warning signs and symptoms of asthma. One of them is a lowered peak flow.

2. Give a list of the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack to your friends, family and colleagues, along with an action plan and a set of written instructions on what to do in an emergency. This should be displayed in a prominent place. This is particularly important if you’re a high-risk asthmatic with partly or poorly controlled asthma.

3. Don’t forget to save the telephone numbers of your doctor and the local hospitals to your phone. Also share these numbers with friends, colleagues and family members.

4. If you have severe asthma, you should have oxygen at hand. If a severe attack occurs, get to the emergency services at your local hospital as quickly as possible.

5. In milder attacks, you can get relief by using your reliever pump. If you live far away from medical services, or where transport isn’t readily available, it’s a good idea to have an emergency course of oral corticosteroids on hand. Try to talk to your doctor before using it.

6. Discuss a plan of action for the yellow and red zones in your written action plan with your doctor in advance. Make a note of the actions you need to take and keep this list in a safe, easily accessible place.

Reviewed by independent healthcare consultant Prof Praneet Valodia and pulmonologist Prof Elvis Irusen, Head of the Division of Pulmonology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. October 2018.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules