Updated 25 January 2019

Asthma: when to call your doctor

Certain signs and symptoms warrant a visit to the doctor, or even the hospital emergency room.

Watch out for these warning signs that may mean you’re losing control of your asthma:

  • Your reliever doesn’t open up your tight chest within a few minutes.
  • You use reliever medication more than twice a week (unless it’s for exercise).
  • You’re using more puffs of your reliever than usual.
  • You’re more breathless than usual.
  • You’re waking up at night as a result of asthma symptoms (this is an important feature of worsening asthma).
  • You experience a tight chest some mornings.
  • You’re coughing persistently and/or you notice a change in the colour of the mucus.
  • Your peak-flow readings show a downward trend (i.e. they worsen over a couple of days).

Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the above. Call emergency services immediately if you're having an asthma attack.

If your asthma remains poorly controlled despite intensive treatment and correct usage, your doctor should refer you to a specialist physician or pulmonologist.

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 more:

- How is asthma treated?

- Who gets asthma?


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

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