Asthma: When should one seek medical help?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 05, 2011

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When should one seek medical help

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the air passages (bronchi) of the lungs because of hypersensitivity to specific substances. Asthma can cause repeated acute episodes. Hence any patient with asthma should be aware about when to call a doctor for asthma.

If you are an asthmatic and have an asthma action plan (that is your doctor has informed you about the medications to be taken in case of an acute attack) then:


Call an emergency service for asthma immediately if:

  • You have severe difficulty in breathing.
  • 20 to 30 minutes after you have taken the extra medicine as advised by your doctor, you do not feel better and/or continue to have peak expiratory flow (PEF) less than 50% of your personal best measurement. (To find out 50% of your personal best, you have to multiply your personal best measurement by 0.50—that is if your personal best PEF is 400, then 50% of 400 times 0.50, is 200).

Call your doctor for asthma immediately if:

  • You are in the red zone of asthma action plan (people with severe asthma are in the red zone of action plan) and you need to take inhaler medicine every 1 to 3 hours or your PEF continues to remain below 70% of your personal best measurement even after taking the extra medicine.
  • You are in the yellow zone of the asthma action plan (if your PEF is 50% to 80% of your personal best measurement) and you continue to have a PEF below 70% of your personal best measurement even after taking the extra medicine at home using your asthma action plan.
  • Your asthma symptoms (even if mild) are worsening and you don’t think you can do anything more at home.
  • You are having a first attack of symptoms similar to asthma (wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty in breathing).
  • Your mucus on coughing is green, dark brown, or has blood.

Call your doctor for if:

  • You have mild asthma symptoms (chest tightness, cough, and slight shortness of breath or tiring easily during exercise), but do not have an asthma action plan.
  • You have symptoms in the yellow zone (PEF 50% to 80% of your personal best measurement) almost daily and you have been taking the quick-relief inhaler medicine to control your symptoms.
  • You have asthma symptoms and the PEF is gradually worsened in 2 to 3 days.
  • You have mild asthma like symptoms but have not been diagnosed with asthma.

You can consult a paediatrician, general physician, family physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, and even an internist for the diagnosis and treatment of asthma. You may have to consult a specialist (allergist or pulmonologist) if you have:

  • Severe asthma or worsening of your symptoms despite treatment.
  • If you have had a life threatening asthma attack.
  • If the patient needs more than one kind of medicine or high doses of medicine to control the symptoms of asthma.
  • Some medical condition which makes it hard to treat asthma.
  • If you have not achieved your goals of treatment after several months of therapy.
  • Occupational asthma.


Read more articles on Understand Asthma



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