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Home / Asthma / Preventing an asthma attack

Preventing an asthma attack

Asthma statistics show that there are 5.4 million people in the UK that have been diagnosed with asthma.1 Some people need medication to control their asthma, whereas others only get symptoms when they are faced with a trigger such as a bad cold or allergies. Because of their varied levels of severity, asthma attacks can be misunderstood by those that have never suffered from it. Further asthma statistics show that in 2014, over a thousand people died from asthma in the UK which is why it should never be taken lightly.

What causes an asthma attack?

Asthma is caused when a sufferers lung muscles get tighter so they struggle to breathe. The airway lining is irritated and can get inflamed as well as the usual body's mucus thickening.

The asthma attack dangers, also known as triggers that set off one person's asthma may not affect another person but allergies to certain foods, medication, environments and coughs and cold are usually the instigator. If an asthmatic gets a respiratory infection it could be extremely dangerous if it triggers a response from their condition. Infections are especially dangerous as they can make it even harder for an asthmatic to breathe.2


Common asthma attack dangers are allergies. Allergies that set off asthmatics include hay fever, dust mites and the fur or feathers of animals. Not all asthmatics suffer from the same allergies so where one would be able to have pets and not suffer any symptoms as a result, another will get sick if they enter the home of someone that does.


The environment an asthmatic person is in can exacerbate their asthma and some of the triggers are difficult to avoid such as pollution. Certain fumes in the workplace can cause problems too causing asthmatics to change their job to something more suitable. Tobacco smoke whether the asthmatic is a smoker or in the same room as someone who is can also irritate the lining of the lungs.


The weather can play havoc on the lungs of someone suffering from asthma, especially when it changes suddenly. It might not be a specific temperature of weather condition it can be too humid, too cold, a thunderstorm or just poor quality of air in itself.


Certain medications commonly come with warning labels to be avoided by asthmatics as they are known as asthma attack dangers. Among them are NSAIDs like Ibuprofen, Naproxen and even beta blockers. Getting too stressed or even laughing can cause asthma to worsen in many people but is difficult to avoid.

Certain foods are known triggers for some asthmatics including concentrated juice, processed foods and even preservatives like jam and marmalade!

Symptoms of an asthma attack

The symptoms of an asthma attack are wheezing, rattling on the chest when inhaling, exhaling or both and struggling to breath. Many asthmatics describe it as also feeling as though they have a band that is getting tighter too. One other characteristic is coughing as the sufferer tries to get rid of the excess mucus. As well as allergens, symptomatic sufferers tend to be worse late at night when oxygen levels drop and when they get up after mucus has been allowed to settle.

What to do in the event of an asthma attack

If you or someone you know is having an asthma attack then your first port of call should be to administer medication. The medication for fast relief is usually blue but it can be a different colour. While the medicine gets to work you should sit down and relax and concentrate on slowing your breathing. If the breathing does not improve then the inhaler should be repeated again but only one puff given after a two minute period. This can be repeated up to 10 times. If after trying the inhaler you still feel no relief you should call for an ambulance, while waiting for it to arrive you should again try the inhaler if 10 minutes have passed. If symptoms do not warrant an ambulance, but don't get much better by the next day you should see your doctor as you may need additional medication to keep your asthma under control.

How to prevent asthma attacks

The best way to prevent an asthma attack is to avoid the triggers. If you are newly diagnosed you may be unaware of what they are right away. There are a few common asthma attack prevention tips you should follow. All asthmatics should avoid such as smoking and being around others that are. Keep your environment as dust free as possible and avoid putting yourself in stressful situations. This is not always possible, but practicing breathing exercises can help to relieve stress so that your asthma doesn't worsen. Ensuring you always have preventer and reliever inhalers (e.g. Ventolin and Seretide) on hand can also lessen the risk of an asthma attack. Allergy tests are a great way of determining triggers, some of which you may not have even noticed.

People that suffer from shortness of breath and are regularly symptomatic are usually given a preventer inhaler for asthma attack prevention. This should be taken as prescribed and not stopped even if you feel well. Keep your reliever on you at all times as this will allow you to treat an asthma attack quickly and in many cases prevent it from worsening.

Reducing the risk of further asthma attacks

Asthma attack prevention is better than having to treat it once it has occurred; one of the best ways to avoid risk of further asthma attacks is to keep up with appointments with your asthma specialist. They will be able to determine whether your condition is getting any worse and where necessary change your medication. Preventative action on top of usual asthma treatment can include removing allergens from your home such as flowers and keeping on top of dust.

If you notice any changes in the way you react to certain situations such as not being able to get up the stairs without getting out of breath where you could beforehand then this could be a sign to see a doctor too.

If you know that pollen sets off your asthma during the summer months, you could take an antihistamine to relieve symptoms and avoid areas that you know are going to have known allergens. If someone in the house smokes then insist they do so outside so that you are not breathing it in.


1. Asthma facts and statistics - Asthma UK

2. Asthma - Symptoms - NHS Choices

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