Asthma Attack

Around 400 people die from asthma each year in Australia. 

Knowing how to recognise an asthma attack, could save your life or the life of someone you love.

Signs of an asthma flare-up or attack:

An asthma flare-up is: 

  • An increase in asthma symptoms and/or 
  • A worsening of asthma symptoms and lung function compared to what you would usually have day to day.  

An asthma flare-up:  

  • Can come on slowly, over hours, days, or even weeks or  
  • Can happen very quickly, over minutes. 

You’re having an asthma flare-up if: 

  • Your reliever puffer isn’t helping you, or symptoms come back within 3 hours of using it. 
  • You’re wheezing a lot, have a very tight chest, or you’re coughing a lot over one or more days. 
  • Your breathing is waking you up at night more than one night in a row. 

You may not have all of these signs and symptoms. You may not wheeze. 

When an asthma flare-up occurs very quickly or suddenly or is life threatening, many people often call it an asthma attack.

Get to Know Your Early Warning Signs: 

How quickly you respond to your changes in asthma symptoms can stop an asthma attack before it happens – or make it less serious. 

If you or someone you care for are showing any of these mild to moderate signs, start asthma first aid 

Use this handy table to help work out how serious the flare-up is, and if you need to call an ambulance.

Signs and symptoms of flare up

Mild to Moderate
  • Minor difficulty breathing
  • Able to talk in full sentences
  • May cough or wheeze
  • Able to walk and move around

Ask the person if they have asthma and if they need help? If so, assist the person with Asthma First Aid.

  • Obvious difficulty breathing
  • Cannot speak a full sentence in one breath
  • Needing reliever again within 3 hours
  • Tugging in of skin between ribs or at base of neck
  • May have a cough or wheeze
  • Lethargic
  • Sore tummy (young children)

Call Ambulance on 000

Commence Asthma First Aid.

  • Gasping for breath
  • Unable to speak or 1-2 words per breath
  • Not responding to reliever medication
  • May no longer have a cough or wheeze
  • Drowsy / confused / exhausted
  • Collapsed / unconscious
  • Skin Discoloration (blue lips)

Call Ambulance on 000

Asthma First Aid 

Click here to access Asthma First Aid information.



Asthma First Aid

When you are having an asthma flare-up or asthma attack, you need to start Asthma First Aid. The steps for Asthma First Aid depend on what reliever you use.

View Asthma First Aid steps for each type of reliever

asthma first aid

Asthma First Aid Poster Set

Click Here

Download Here


What can you do to prevent this happening again?

If you have had an asthma attack or ended up in a hospital or an emergency department, it means that your asthma is not under your control.

When you’ve had an asthma flare-up you need to see your doctor within 3 days to review your asthma and update your Asthma Action Plan to discuss:

  • What is your current level of asthma control – how do we improve it?
  • How well are your asthma medicines working – can we improve their use?
  • What triggered your asthma attack – can you avoid the trigger, or how to respond better to the trigger next time to avoid an asthma attack?
  • Are there any other factors that might be affecting your asthma control – how do we reduce their impact on your asthma?

For more support about managing asthma, talk to us. 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) is a no-charge service open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. You can get in touch with us through phone, email or by booking in a call-back.


Contact 1800 Asthma


To help get back on track after your visit to the emergency department or hospital after an asthma attack visit our after hospital page.