When to Call the Doctor for Asthma Problems

March 21, 2017

When to Call the Doctor for Asthma Problems

Once you've been diagnosed with asthma, one of the best things you can do to help keep your condition under control is work closely with your health care provider.

That means regular appointments, of course. But between office visits, symptoms may flare or new ones may crop up. How do you know if you're experiencing "just the usual," or if shortness of breath or other symptoms are worthy of an immediate call to the doctor?

The following guidelines will help you decide when to call the doctor, and when to self-treat for asthma.

  • As long as a person with asthma follows an asthma action plan based on peak flow readings the condition is rarely fatal.

  • Minor shortness of breath can be treated at home or in the doctor's office. If it's major, seek emergency care.

  • If you have asthma, it's important that you know what your typical symptoms are. Mild cases of asthma may include only some wheezing; more severe cases can rapidly progress from minor shortness of breath to a life-threatening situation.

  • Call the doctor if you have symptoms such as:

    • Trouble breathing, even after you've taken the medications according to your asthma action plan; or you have shortness of breath combined with tightness in the chest and wheezing

    • Having to use your inhaler more often than prescribed or more often than every 4 hours

    • Persistent, dry hacking cough

    • Yellow, green, gray or bloody sputum, or thick sputum that you can't cough up

    • Itching, swelling, rash or difficulty breathing, which may be caused by a reaction to your medication

  • Get immediate help (call 911) for symptoms such as sweating and severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or blue lips and fast heart rate and anxiety.


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Chris O'BrienChris O'Brien RN MPH,Cineas, Sybil MD