Avoiding future asthma attacks

Once you’re recovering well it’s a good time to think about what caused your asthma attack and how you can lower your risk.

Dr Andy Whittamore

“An asthma attack is a frightening experience, and not one you want to repeat if you can help it. Identifying what caused your attack is a first step to lowering your risk of another one."

Why did I have an asthma attack?

An asthma attack can sometimes seem to come out of the blue, but there’s usually a reason, or several reasons, for why it happened.

Here are three of the most common reasons why people had an asthma attack:

1. I forgot/didn’t want to take my preventer every day

Whether you forgot, or you didn’t want to take your preventer inhaler, missing out on your daily dose of preventer medicine ups your risk of an asthma attack.

  • If you’re worried about taking medicine every day talk to your GP or asthma nurse. They can run through all the benefits of your preventer inhaler, and weigh these up against the very low risk of any side effects. You might find you’ve been worrying for nothing about taking it every day.
  • If forgetting to take your inhaler is a problem for you, think of ways to make it part of your everyday routine. You could try keeping it next to something else you do every day. Or how about setting reminders on your phone?

2. I’m not sure how to use my inhaler

Using your inhaler correctly gives you the full dose of asthma medicine you need. This means your airways are more protected, and you’re less at risk of an asthma attack.

If you’re not doing it right, you’re not getting the benefits, and putting yourself at risk.

  • See the right technique for your inhaler by watching our inhaler technique videos. If you’re still not sure, or you can’t get the hang of it, ask your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist to check your technique in person. They may recommend a different device that’s easier for you to use, or suggest you use a spacer with your inhaler.

3. Something different set off my symptoms/ one of my usual triggers was worse

Sometimes symptoms take you by surprise and it can be difficult to work out what triggered them. It could be a combination of two or more triggers.

Maybe there was something new on holiday, or at work. Or you were exposed to more of one of your usual triggers.

  • Take some time to think about possible triggers around the time of your attack. Were you out on a high pollution or a high pollen day? Were you more stressed? Did the weather turn very cold? Did you start a new job?
  • Talk to your GP or asthma nurse about what you think could have set off your symptoms. They can update your asthma action plan, and give you advice on how to protect yourself against any new triggers.

Cut your risk of an asthma attack with an asthma action plan

Everyone with asthma can benefit from using an asthma action plan. An action plan makes it easier to manage your symptoms, so you’re less likely to need hospital treatment for an asthma attack.

If you do one thing to cut your risk of an asthma attack, do this:

  • Get your asthma plan updated after your asthma attack. See your GP or asthma nurse to talk through what happened, and what you need to do now to keep your asthma under control. You might need a different dose of your usual medicine, or a different medicine. You can also update warning signs or triggers. All this information can be written on your asthma action plan.
  • If you haven’t got an asthma action plan now’s a really good time to start using one. You can download one straight away here. Then get an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse to fill it in with you.

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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