Asthma getting worse

Know when your asthma is getting worse and what action you need to take. 

An asthma attack is an emergency

If you’re having an asthma attack and finding it hard to breathe you need emergency treatment as soon as possible. Call 999 for an ambulance.

Follow our asthma attack advice.

What are the signs that my asthma is getting worse?

If you notice asthma symptoms, it means your asthma is not as well controlled as it should be. 

As soon as you notice asthma symptoms, book an appointment to get the support you need to lower your risk.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms see your GP or  nurse as soon as you can:

  • feeling breathless    
  • coughing
  • tight chest
  • wheezing
  • symptoms waking you up at night 
  • finding it harder to do everyday things like housework, playing with children, or going to work
  • using your reliever inhaler more than usual.

What do my asthma symptoms mean?

If you’re getting more asthma symptoms, it’s a sign that your asthma is not well controlled. Symptoms mean your airways are more inflamed and narrow. This makes it harder for air to get through and means an asthma attack is more likely.

The sooner you can treat the inflammation in your airways, the sooner you can lower your risk of an asthma attack.

How your GP or nurse can help

Your GP or nurse can help you manage your symptoms better and stop symptoms leading to an asthma attack. 
They can:

  • talk about triggers like pollen, pollution, stress, or female hormones, which can all make your asthma symptoms worse
  • review your asthma medicines, and check if you’re taking them every day
  • look at your inhaler technique to make sure the asthma medicine you need is getting into your airways. If you use a metered dose inhaler, a spacer can help the medicine get to the airways where it’s needed 
  • suggest a higher dose, or more puffs, of your preventer inhaler for a while
  • consider a change of medicines or a new type of inhaler device
  • prescribe a short course of steroid tablets 
  • give you advice about allergies which can make your symptoms worse
  • update your asthma action plan so you know what to do every day to stay well, and what action to take when your symptoms get worse. Using an asthma action plan is one of the best ways to stay on top of your asthma symptoms.

Why are my symptoms worse?

If your asthma symptoms are worse, you should book an appointment with your GP or nurse. Before your appointment, think about your symptoms and why they may be worse.

It’ll help you and your GP or nurse to work out why your asthma is flaring up.

Ask yourself a few questions before you go, for example:

1. Have I been taking my preventer medicine every day?

If you have a preventer inhaler, make sure you take it every day as prescribed. Your preventer inhaler stops inflammation building up in your airways. But it can only do this if you take it every day as prescribed.

2. Do I know the best way to take my inhalers?

If you’re not taking your inhaler in the right way, you won’t get the full dose of asthma medicine you need. Watch our inhaler videos to see if you’re doing it right. And ask your GP or nurse to check your inhaler technique at your appointment. A spacer can also help your technique if you’re using a metered dose inhaler (MDI).

3. Do I know what’s triggered my asthma symptoms? 

Think about your usual triggers and if they might be affecting you more. Maybe you’ve caught a cold or it’s pollen season and your hay fever’s bad. Perhaps you’ve noticed mould and damp triggers your symptoms. Tell your doctor or nurse if you’ve noticed a trigger making your symptoms worse, so they can help you manage it. 

4. Have I been under stress?

Think about when you first noticed symptoms getting worse. Was there something stressful going on in your life, at home or work? Stress and emotions can be triggers for your asthma symptoms. There is a lot of support available to help you manage your stress levels.

5. Have I noticed hormonal changes?

Asthma symptoms can get worse around your period, during pregnancy, and during menopause. Your GP or nurse can help you manage your asthma during times of hormonal change.

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.

Did you find this information useful?

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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