Breathing difficulties

Choose the right healthcare service to get the care you need and to enable the NHS to help the greatest number of people.

GREEN Self-care at home


Contact NHS Smokefree for free advice and support

Find a stop smoking service

Ask your pharmacist about stop smoking treatments


Mould can cause breathing difficulties

Avoid places where mould is found i.e. compost heaps, dead leaves

Close windows if there’s construction work or digging outside

Wear a face mask in dusty places

Consider using an air purifier at home; devices with HEPA filters are best

Dry laundry outside or in a tumble drier


Use preventative inhalers as prescribed, try to avoid using doses. If you find yourself using your reliever more regularly, you should arrange a review of your asthma and breathing.

Use a spacer, if provided, particularly if struggling to take or gain good effect from an inhaler

Book regular asthma reviews with a GP or asthma nurse due to additional risks

Check correct use of inhaler with a GP or asthma nurse

Asthma may flare up due to exposure to different particles in the air i.e. smoke, aerosols. Try and identify your triggers to prevent exposure to them in future.

Ensure you know where your inhalers are. If you are prone to exacerbations (or if going to unfamiliar places), it is a good idea to keep your reliever inhaler on you.

Follow personal asthma action plans and take all prescribed medicines

Ensure friends and family know how to help in an emergency

Share asthma action plans or take a phone photo of your plan to show others

AMBER It is urgent, but not life threatening

Increased breathlessness, particularly when active

Persistent chesty cough with phlegm

Frequent chest infections


Tight chest

Coughing up blood or blood-stained mucus.

Breathing stops and starts when sleeping.

Gasping, snorting, choking, loud snoring when sleeping.

Waking up a lot

Contact a GP Practice


Call 111 or visit

Particularly seek advice if:

  • pregnant
  • over 65
  • have a long-term health condition. heart, lung or kidney condition
  • have a weakened immune system i.e. diabetes or chemotherapy treatment

RED It is a life-threatening medical emergency

Swelling at base of the neck upwards including anywhere in the face, neck, mouth, throat that is causing difficulty breathing.

Sudden breathlessness.

Unable to speak in full sentences/gasping for air.

Go direct to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, if someone can take you there. Do not self-drive. Or call 999.

Bad asthma attack

Follow these three steps:

1 Sit up straight and keep calm.

2 Take one puff of a reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to 10 puffs.

3 If feeling worse or no better after 10 puffs, call 999 or go direct to Queen Alexandra