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Recognising worsening asthma

Know your normal1

If you know what symptoms are normal for you, then you’ll recognise what’s not normal. Because everyone is different, the advice for when and how to act if symptoms get worse will be slightly different too. That’s where self-management plans really help — they’re specific to your symptoms and your current treatment.

Peak Flow Diaries help too — the pattern of the readings will tell you if your lung function is getting worse, so you can take steps to prevent an asthma attack or exacerbation.

Possible signs of worsening asthma control2
  • You’re getting symptoms (e.g. wheezing, tightness in your chest, feeling breathless, coughing)
  • You’re suffering from symptoms at night that disturb your sleep
  • Your symptoms are making everyday activities more difficult
  • You’re using your reliever inhaler more often than usual
  • Your peak flow is below your normal predicted range
Signs the worsening might be due to an infection3
  • You’re coughing up more mucus than normal or different coloured mucus
  • You’ve got a high temperature, fever or chills
  • You feel tired or weak
  • You’ve got a sore throat or pain when you swallow
  • You’ve got a blocked nose with pressure in your sinuses or you’re getting headaches
What to do2

This depends on what medication you’re on, and whether your doctor has given you any antibiotics or steroid tablets to keep at home. That’s why self-management plans are important — advice is confusing if it’s about medicines you’re not taking.

Approval code: RESP-IE-NP-00092

Date of preparation: November 2020

  1. Live well with asthma. Asthma UK. Available at: Last accessed: November 2020.
  2. Your asthma action plan. Asthma UK. Available at: Last accessed: November 2020.
  3. Chest infection. NHS inform. Available at: Last accessed: November 2020.

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