How to help someone who is having an asthma attack

Know what steps to take in this situation


Having an asthma attack is very frightening. Three people die of an asthma attack in the UK each day, but they can be avoided if the right steps are taken. Every 10 seconds, someone suffers from a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. The right type of asthma treatment can significantly reduce the chance of having an asthma attack, but this does not mean they will never have one. Several factors can exacerbate someone’s asthma leading to an attack. An asthma attack can be a scary and frantic situation, especially for the person having the attack. If someone close to you has asthma, it is important to know what to do in this situation as it can save their lives in the future. This article will outline the steps that can be taken to help anyone with an asthma attack.

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Firstly, what is asthma? Asthma is a common lung condition that results in occasional breathing issues. People of all ages can be affected by asthma, but it often starts in childhood, but it can develop for the first time in adults. Asthma does not have a cure, but there are established treatment regimens that can keep the symptoms at bay, so it does not have a debilitating effect on one’s life. 



Knowing what an asthma attack presents with is important. If you recognize someone is having an asthma attack, you can then go on to help them. So these are the symptoms you should look out for:

  • Wheezing and coughing when breathing (making a whistling noise when you breathe)
  • Breathless and finding it difficult to walk or talk
  • Feeling a tightening sensation around the chest 
  • Your blue inhaler is not helping suppress the symptoms or using the blue reliever more than every four hours



We know asthma attacks are fatal, so you must act now. When someone has an asthma attack, it is hard to keep calm, especially for the person having the attack. There are four critical steps outlined by health professionals to take during an asthma attack. 


  1. Sit them upright. You might be tempted to lie them down, but this makes it harder for them to breathe when they are on their backs or sides. At this stage, try and keep them calm. If they start freaking out and getting anxious, it will cause them to hyperventilate. 
  2. Find their blue inhaler. People living with asthma usually carry around their blue inhaler with them. The blue inhaler is referred to as the reliever inhaler. Get them to take one puff of the blue inhaler every 30-60 seconds. Do not give them more than ten puffs. 
  3. Call 999 if they are not feeling better, and it seems to be getting worse. If there is no sign of improvement or the symptoms intensify without any relief after ten puffs, call the paramedics immediately. Do not let the attack go on after this point without contacting emergency professionals 
  4. Give them a blue inhaler again after 15 minutes. If you are still waiting for the ambulance and it has been more than 15 minutes, give them one puff of the blue inhaler every 30-60 seconds up to a maximum of 10 puffs. 


It is important to note that these steps are NOT for people using the SMART or MART regime. If you know the person is on this therapy regime, they have separate asthma attack advice from their GP. 


Most asthma sufferers have a personal asthma attack plan to help them know what to do in an emergency. If someone close to you has asthma, ask them for a copy of their asthma attack plan, so you know that specific advice to follow. 


Being in a situation like will understandably be overwhelming, especially if you have never been in one before. You must try and stay calm because freaking out can make the situation worse. Equipping yourself with the information above could save a life. 



  1. NHS Choices. Asthma attacks - Asthma. [Online] NHS. Available from:
  2. Asthma UK. Asthma attacks | Asthma UK. [Online] Asthma UK. Available from:

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