Signs of an Asthma Emergency

Asthma attacks can build slowly over time or come on suddenly. Every minute and second counts.

If you are experiencing a severe or life-threatening asthma attack, call an ambulance – Dial Triple Zero (000) and then start asthma first aid.

If you are experiencing a mild to moderate asthma attack, start asthma first aid.

Begin Asthma First Aid if a person has:

  • Minor difficulty breathing
  • May have a cough or soft wheeze
  • Able to talk in full sentences
  • Able to walk/move around

Call an ambulance (dial 000) if and when the situation becomes severe

  • Obvious difficulty breathing
  • Cannot speak a full sentence in one breath
  • May have cough or wheeze
  • Sucking in of skin over ribs/throat (tracheal tug)
  • Reliever medication not lasting as long as usual

Life Threatening

  • Gasping for breath, may no longer wheeze or cough
  • May be confused or exhausted, distressed and panicky
  • Pale/sweaty/blue lips
  • Only able to speak a few words or can’t talk at all
  • No response to reliever medication

Asthma First Aid

If you or someone you know is experiencing an asthma flare-up, even if only mild, commence Asthma First Aid immediately.


Keep calm and sit up straight 


Have 4 puffs of reliever puffer 
Using a spacer if possible, 1 puff at a time, taking 4 breaths after each puff.


Wait 4 minutes
If there is no improvement, give 4 more separate puffs of reliever inhaler as above.


Call ambulance (dial 000)
Keep giving 4 separate puffs every 4 minutes until the ambulance arrives.

IMPORTANT: Not applicable to Bricanyl or SMART medication regimes. Speak to your GP or Asthma WA for further information.