How is asthma managed?

It’s important you and your doctor or practice nurse manage your asthma together. Make sure you have regular appointments to review your symptoms and a full review at least once a year.

What is an asthma review?

An asthma review should cover

  • measuring your breathing by spirometry or peak flow
  • reviewing your inhaler technique
  • discussing your asthma triggers
  • adjusting your treatment. If your asthma has been well controlled for six months, it may be possible to reduce your medication
  • discussing your asthma action plan

What is an asthma action plan?

You should agree a written asthma action plan with your health care professional. If you have a plan, you’re more likely to control your asthma and be less at risk of a severe attack.

Your plan will cover:

  • what’s normal for you when your asthma is under control
  • which medications you should take
  • how to recognise when your asthma gets worse
  • what to do about worsening symptoms: who to contact and how to alter your medications. You may be prescribed a rescue course of steroids to keep at home.

In general, your asthma is well controlled if you use your reliever medication up to three times per week, your asthma does not stop you doing anything or wake you up at night, and you haven’t had a recent attack.

What is an asthma attack?

You're having an asthma attack if any of the following happens:

  • your reliever isn't helping or lasting over four hours
  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • you're too breathless or it's difficult to speak, eat or sleep
  • your breathing is getting faster and you feel you can’t draw in a full breath

If you have an asthma attack

  • Sit comfortable and try to keep calm.
  • Take one puff of your reliever inhaler every 30-60 seconds. You can take up to 10 puffs.
  • If your symptoms improve, you still need to contact your GP, nurse or out-of-hours service the same day.
  • If you feel worse while you're using your inhaler or you don't feel better after 10 puffs or you're worried, call 999.
  • In this case, take 10 more puffs after 15 minutes, if you need to.

Important! This doesn’t apply if you’re on a SMART or MART regime. Ask your GP or nurse for asthma attack information.

Further information

We have information online about asthma in children and breathing tests or call our friendly helpline team on 03000 030 555.

Asthma UK has more detailed information about asthma and you can also download an asthma action plan. Visit the Asthma UK website, or call 0300 222 5800.

If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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Last medically reviewed: April 2017. Due for review: April 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.