When to call 999 or 111

Find out when you need to call 999, ask for help from the NHS 111 service, or see your GP or nurse urgently

When to call 999

Call 999 if you’re having an asthma attack and your reliever inhaler is not helping.

An asthma attack is a medical emergency, and it’s very important to treat it quickly. When you call 999 for an ambulance tell the call handler you’re having an asthma attack, so they know they need to get someone to you as soon as possible.

Find out what to do in an asthma attack.

“Avoid calling a taxi or asking someone for a lift to A&E. It’s safer to call 999 for an ambulance so paramedics can start to treat you on the way. Tell the call handler you’re having an asthma attack.” 
Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma + Lung UK’s GP. 

When to call 111

NHS 111 is for medical issues that are urgent, but not life-threatening. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Call 111 if: 

  • your GP surgery is closed 
  • your symptoms are getting in the way of everyday activities or waking you up at night.

When you call 111, the call handler will ask you some questions about your symptoms.

Once they know what your symptoms are, they can give you advice about what to do and where to go for further help.

They might suggest you go to A&E or a walk-in centre or get an urgent same-day appointment at your GP surgery or an out-of-hours centre.

If you're using NHS 111 online, this is for people aged five and over. If you need help for a child under five you need to call 111 instead.

When to contact your GP or nurse

Everyone with asthma should contact their GP or nurse at least once a year for an asthma review.

You should also speak to your GP or nurse when you've just come out of hospital after an asthma attack. Book an urgent appointment within two days of being discharged from hospital.

You can also make an appointment at other times during the year, for example:

  • if you’re worried about the side effects of your medicines, or medicines are not working as well
  • if you need health advice for example, information about giving up smoking 
  • if you need advice about seasonal triggers like pollen or cold weather.

Ask for an urgent GP appointment if you have any of these signs or symptoms:

  • your symptoms are getting worse (wheeze, tightness in your chest, feeling breathless, cough)
  • you’ve been treated for a flare-up of your asthma, and are not completely better
  • you’re waking up at night because of your asthma
  • your symptoms are getting in the way of your day-to-day routine (e.g. work, family life, exercising)
  • you need to use your blue reliever inhaler three or more times a week
  • you need to use extra doses of your MART inhaler most days
  • your AIR inhaler is not relieving your symptoms.

These are all warning signs that you may be at risk of an asthma attack. You need to talk about your asthma medicines with your GP or nurse and check you're taking them in the correct way.

Getting help now means you can cut your risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

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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