Assessing Asthma Symptoms


Diagnosed asthma symptoms can unexpectedly worsen or flare up, signalling the onset of an asthma attack.

There are 3 levels of asthma attack, which can be assessed with careful observation and constant monitoring.

Don't wait until symptoms become severe. Good knowledge and management can help save a life.


Mild to Moderate

  • minor difficulty breathing
  • able to talk in full sentences
  • may cough or wheeze
  • able to walk and move around
  • commence asthma first aid


  • obvious difficulty breathing
  • cannot speak full sentence in one breath
  • may cough or wheeze
  • lethargic
  • needs reliever within 3 hours or last dose
  • skin tugging between ribs or at base of neck
  • sore stomach in young child
  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance
  • commence asthma first aid


  • gasping for breath
  • cannot speak 1-2 words per breath
  • may no longer cough or wheeze
  • drowsy, confused, exhausted
  • no response to reliever medication
  • skin discoloured, bluish lips and fingertips
  • collapse, unconscious
  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance
  • commence asthma first aid


    Asthma Australia

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long should I expect an asthma flare-up to last? An asthma flare-up can come on slowly, over hours, days or even weeks, or very quickly over minutes. A sudden or severe asthma flare-up is sometimes called an asthma attack.

    Why do asthma flare-ups increase around the back-to-school period? Busy holiday periods can disrupt the routine of taking daily prescribed preventer medicines, and may also mean that Asthma Action Plans are not as strictly adhered to as at other times. Returning to school can also present new environmental allergens or the spread of viruses amongst students.

    Other than when returning to school, at what other times are asthma flare-ups more common? Cold and flu are the most common cause of asthma flare-ups in children. School Nurses and First Aiders should also be aware and particularly vigilant on days of unusual weather conditions, high pollen or poor air quality, especially during bushfire season. A student's Asthma Action Plan, and two-way communication with their parent or carer, should highlight their flare-up triggers.

    What first aid supplies do I need for asthma first aid? Asthma sufferers must have their own written Asthma Action Plan, kept accessible at all times by the school. An Asthma Emergency Module is an essential addition to a School First Aid Room, off-site first aid kit, and an asthma-effected student's personal Medical ID Emergency Pouch. Supplies of disposable spacers should always be on hand.