Signs and treatment of Asthma

There are 368,000 people in Scotland currently receiving treatment for asthma. Of these, 72,000 (1 in 13 of the total population) are children and 296,000 (1 in 14 of the total population) are adults. 37,000 people in Scotland have severe asthma symptoms.

Asthma attacks

During the warmer months, pollen count and air pollution levels increase which may increase the chances of an asthma attack for some people.

Sometimes something specific can trigger an attack, such as an allergy, a cold, or cigarette smoke. At other times, someone may have a sudden attack with no obvious trigger.

In an asthma attack, the muscles of the air passages in the lungs go into spasm. This makes the airways narrower, making it difficult to breathe.

Signs and Symptoms

People with asthma usually deal with their own attacks by using a blue reliever inhaler at the first sign of an attack. But if someone doesn’t have an inhaler, or the attack is severe, you may need to help.

If you think someone is having an asthma attack, these are the five key things to look for:

  • Difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Distress
  • Grey-blue tinge to the lips, earlobes and nail beds.


  • Reassure the casualty and ask them to breathe slowly and deeply
  • Help them use their reliever inhaler, usually blue, straight away
  • Sit them down in a comfortable position
  • If the attack doesn’t get better within a few minutes, it may be a severe attack. Ask the casualty to take one or two puffs of their inhaler every two minutes, until they’ve had 10 puffs
  • If the attack is severe and they are getting worse or becoming exhausted, or if this is their first attack, then call 999/112 for an ambulance
  • If the casualty looses consciousness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and place them in the recovery position.


Asthma medicines are usually given by inhalers / relievers. These are devices that deliver medication directly into the lungs as you breathe in. This is an effective way of taking an asthma medicine as most goes straight to the lungs, with very little ending up elsewhere in the body

Asthma Self Assessment Test

The NHS has developed a self assessment test for those who suspect they, or their child, might have asthma. A link to the test is below. If you suspect you or your child has asthma seek medical advice from your doctor.

Asthma in schools – school card and action plan

The Asthma UK School Card is a document developed for parents / healthcare professionals to complete to keep the school updated on their child’s medication/asthma control.

Download a School Asthma Card

Asthma UK

Asthma UK is a charity that works across the UK to support those with asthma. Their website has a host of useful information.