Next Time You Have an Asthma Attack

Watch your asthma symptoms closely for clues. When you definitely have a flare-up of your asthma symptoms, think back about what changed in the past few days and what you were feeling before your asthma symptoms increased.

Write down what you notice so that next time you will recognize these early warning signs of an asthma attack. Then you can act quickly before asthma symptoms become worse.

How to Handle an Asthma Attack

Know what to do:

  • Know your early warning signs of an asthma attack.
  • Follow the steps in your Asthma Action Plan including monitoring your peak flow, removing yourself from the trigger, and taking quick-relief medicine as directed.
  • While waiting for medicine to take effect, sit down in a quiet place and try to be calm.
  • Try to slow down your rate of breathing; breathing through pursed lips can help.
  • Sip a drink to help loosen mucus.
  • Make sure someone knows that you are trying to manage an asthma attack so they can help you get additional medical care if your asthma symptoms do not improve.
  • Know when and how to seek medical care. Work with your doctor to create and regularly update your Asthma Action Plan.

Know what NOT to do:

  • DO NOT rely on water to relieve asthma symptoms.
  • DO NOT breathe in warm, moist air from a shower.
  • DO NOT breathe into a paper bag.
  • DO NOT take over-the-counter cold medicine or other medicines without asking your doctor.
  • DO NOT ignore symptoms. Pay close attention to your symptoms and your peak flow readings.
  • DO NOT ignore your doctor's instructions. Follow your doctor's instructions to relieve symptoms.

Seek help if your asthma symptoms become severe.

Written by Karen Serrano, MD

Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD

Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine

Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University

Board certified in Allergy and Immunology

Last updated June 2008