Managing an Asthma Exacerbation

Managing an Asthma Exacerbation: A Patient Self-Help Guide


If you have asthma and are experiencing worsening symptoms, known as an exacerbation or flare-up, it is important to act quickly to prevent your symptoms from escalating. Follow this guide to help manage your exacerbation and to decide when you should seek medical care.

Immediate Action Steps

Stay Calm: Try to remain calm, as stress can make your symptoms worse. Sit upright and try to breathe slowly and deeply.

Use Your Rescue Inhaler: Follow the instructions for your short-acting bronchodilator (rescue inhaler), usually 2 puffs every 4-6 hours as needed.

Check Your Peak Flow (if available): Use your peak flow meter to check your asthma status.

Follow Your Asthma Action Plan: If you have a personalized asthma action plan given by your GP or nurse, follow the instructions provided.

Call for Help: If your symptoms are not improving after using your rescue inhaler, seek medical help immediately. Call your GP or an emergency service.

Preventing Future Exacerbations

Take Your Preventer Inhaler: Make sure you are taking your preventer (controller) inhaler regularly as prescribed by your GP.

Avoid Triggers: Know your triggers (e.g., allergens, smoke, cold air) and avoid them when possible.

Attend Regular Check-ups: Make sure you are seeing your GP or asthma nurse regularly for reviews of your asthma management plan.

Take Medications as Prescribed: Always use your medications exactly as prescribed by your healthcare professional.

Keep a Diary: Track your symptoms, peak flow readings, and any triggers. Share this information with your healthcare provider.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Seek immediate medical help if you are:

- Struggling to breathe or speak

- Not relieved after using your rescue inhaler

- Having to use your rescue inhaler more than every 4 hours

- Experiencing severe chest tightness or pain

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Practice deep breathing exercises or meditation.

Consider seeing a therapist or counselor to help with stress management techniques.

Engage in regular, gentle exercise such as walking or yoga (as tolerated and recommended by your GP).

General Self-Care Tips

Get a Flu Shot Annually: Flu can worsen asthma symptoms.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly (as advised by your GP), and get adequate sleep.

Quit Smoking: If you smoke, quitting is one of the best steps you can take for your asthma and overall health. Ask your GP for help with quitting.

Educate Yourself: Learn more about asthma and stay updated with information from reliable sources such as your healthcare provider or reputable health websites.

Travel with Care: Always carry your rescue inhaler and a copy of your Asthma Action Plan, especially when traveling.


Remember, everyone’s asthma is different. The information provided in this guide is general in nature and should not replace advice from your healthcare professional. Always consult with your GP or asthma nurse before making changes to your asthma management plan.


This self-help guide is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.