Health conditions

Asthma attack severity guide

Mild attack

  • Cough
  • Quiet wheeze
  • Some difficulty breathing
  • Able to speak in sentences.


  • Persistent cough
  • Loud wheeze
  • Obvious difficulty breathing (sucking in at tummy or throat)
  • Only able to speak a few words at a time.


  • Very distressed and frightened
  • Gasping for breath
  • Unable to speak more than single words
  • Working very hard to breathe
  • Sucking in at the throat and tummy a lot.

Life threatening

  • Unable to move around
  • Unable to speak
  • Pale, blue around the lips
  • No wheeze heard.

All severe or life threatening asthma attacks require urgent medical attention. Always dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency, then follow the asthma first aid plan.


Child and Adolescent Health Service – Community Health (CAHS CH)

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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