Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

How to tell if your asthma is getting worse

If you’re not managing your asthma properly, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some cases.

It’s important that you can recognise when your condition is getting worse.

Emergency action required: Go to your GP immediately if:

  • you find that your breathing is getting worse

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if you:

  • are using your reliever inhaler more often
  • are coughing or wheezing more often
  • feel more short of breath
  • find that your chest feels tight
  • sometimes have trouble speaking
  • have not been sleeping well because you are wheezing or coughing at night
  • are short of breath in the morning
  • are not able to do everyday things like housework, exercise

These are all signs that your asthma is getting worse. Your airways could be getting inflamed. This can lead to an asthma attack.

When you see your GP they may:

  • check how you use your inhaler to make sure you are using it correctly
  • change your medicine - they could give you a higher dose inhaler, a new type of inhaler or prescribe steroid medicine

Do not be afraid to contact your GP if you think your current treatment is not working as well as it should be.

How to know your asthma is getting worse

Use your peak flow test to monitor your asthma. If the your peak flow score is low, it could mean that you're heading for an asthma attack. Talk to your GP when your peak flow score is low.

If you're using your reliever inhaler 2 or 3 times a week or more, you should probably see your GP.

How to manage your asthma

Keep your asthma action plan up to date. It will help you manage your asthma and remind you what to do when you know your symptoms are getting worse.

Keeping a diary of your symptoms will also help you to identify your asthma triggers. When you know your triggers, you can avoid them to prevent an asthma attack.

Use your preventer inhaler every day and keep your reliever inhaler on you in case you need it.

Page last reviewed: 9 December 2020
Next review due: 10 December 2023