What happens in A&E (Accident and Emergency)?

Find out what to expect when you go to A&E for your asthma, how you’ll be assessed and treated, and how to lower your risk of another asthma attack.

Call 999 if you’re having an asthma attack

If your reliever inhaler is not helping, call 999 for an ambulance and tell them you’re having an asthma attack.

Even if you feel able to get to A&E yourself, you should call 999 for an ambulance so you can be treated on the way to hospital.

See our asthma attack advice. 

When you get to A&E

If you arrive at A&E in an ambulance, the ambulance crew will check you in. If you didn’t come by ambulance, you need to go to the A&E desk to register. It’s a good idea to ask someone to come with you to A&E if possible, so they can help you with this.  

A few hospitals have a screen you can use to check yourself in when you arrive. Once you’ve checked in, the screen gives you instructions on where to go next.

You’ll need to wait to be called for your first assessment (triage).

A&E or ED?

A&E (Accident and Emergency) is also sometimes called ED (Emergency Department).  

You may see signs for either A&E or ED at the hospital. It can also be known as Casualty.

Taking your child to A&E

Many hospitals have separate children’s A&E departments. If you take your child to A&E, the staff will show you where to go.  

Children’s A&E is more child-friendly, so can be a less worrying place for children to visit.

The A&E doctors and nurses are supported by consultant paediatricians and paediatric nurses who specialise in treating children.  

First assessment (triage)

Your first assessment (also known as triage) will be done by a trained healthcare professional. This could be a nurse or doctor.

The A&E team make sure that anyone who needs care most urgently is seen first.

Staff may want to do further tests which may include checking your heart rate, blood pressure, or temperature.

You may have X-rays or scans to help the A&E team assess your lungs. Nurses will monitor your breathing and oxygen levels too. 

It can help to have a list of your medicines, and your asthma action plan, to show to staff in A&E.  

Treatments in A&E

The A&E doctor or nurse will give you treatments to stop your asthma attack. These may include:

If you’re having a severe asthma attack, you might be given steroids as an injection, or through a cannula. A cannula is a very small plastic tube put into a vein, usually in the back of your hand or in your arm. It should not hurt once it’s in place.

If you need more hospital care, you’ll be admitted to another department, such as a ward or intensive care unit (ICU) until you get better. 

Leaving A&E

Once your treatment has worked well, and A&E staff think you are well enough, you’ll be able to go home.

Remember to:  

  • ask for an updated asthma action plan.
  • pick up any prescriptions at the hospital pharmacy.  
  • make an appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse.

Find out more about emergency treatment if you have severe asthma.

See your usual GP or asthma nurse within two working days

Going to A&E is a sign that your asthma isn’t as well controlled as it could be. It’s really important to follow up with your GP or asthma nurse within two working days.

Find out more about what to do after an 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.

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.

Page last reviewed:
Next review due: