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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Asthma emergency

Ohotata mate huangō

Asthma can sometimes be life-threatening. The information on this page tells you what to look for and what to do if there is an asthma emergency.

Signs of life-threatening asthma

Asthma is life-threatening if someone:

What to do

Do not panic. Keep the person calm and comfortable while acting confidently and without delay.

Follow the four-step asthma emergency plan.


Sit the person upright. Loosen any tight clothing. Stay with the person. Remain calm and reassuring.


Give them six puffs of a reliever inhaler. This will either be their single combination inhaler (for example, Symbicort, Vannair or Duoresp) or a separate blue inhaler (for example, Respigen, Salamol, Ventolin or Bricanyl). Ideally give them one puff at a time using a spacer. After each puff ask the person to take six breaths from the spacer.


Wait 6 minutes.



If there is little or no improvement, call an ambulance by dialling 111. Continually repeat steps 2 and 3 while waiting for the ambulance. Remember, an ambulance can provide treatment and is a much safer form of transport than a car.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2021.


Page reference: 327463

Review key: HIASA-39947