Media Releases

Australians urged to know asthma first aid to be better prepared for future events

1 May 2017

On World Asthma Day (May 2) the National Asthma Council Australia is calling on Australians to be ready for any future asthma emergencies by knowing asthma first aid.

Education to assist communities to prepare for and respond to thunderstorm asthma events is a key recommendation of the final report into Victoria’s thunderstorm asthma event of 21 and 22 November 2016, handed down last week by the state’s Inspector-General for Emergency Management.

Whilst many people were directly affected with asthma symptoms, some severely, there were many more who experienced the frightening circumstances of seeing family and friends being unable to breathe.

Dr. Jonathan Burdon AM, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said that individuals and communities need help to be better prepared for responding to asthma incidents.

 “Any serious asthma attack can be life-threatening and have tragic consequences. If people know what asthma first aid steps to take, lives can be saved".

“It’s important to act quickly if you or someone near you starts to have symptoms such as shortness of breath or wheezing.

“However, the best way to treat asthma symptoms is to avoid them happening in the first place by making sure your asthma is under control and following your written asthma action plan. If you haven’t previously had a diagnosis of asthma and are experiencing breathing problems, book in to have a review with your doctor. You may benefit from preventer medication and having an action plan for emergencies.”

National Asthma Council Australia advises that an asthma flare-up or attack can come on gradually with worsening symptoms over a few days, or strike quite suddenly. Asthma first aid is needed when a person:

  • Has increasing asthma symptoms of wheezing, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Has symptoms that get worse very quickly or aren’t improving 
  • Has severe shortness of breath or obvious difficulty breathing
  • Can’t speak comfortably in full sentences 
  • Gets little or no relief from their reliever inhaler.

National Asthma Council Australia advises the following asthma first aid steps:

  1. Sit the person upright.
  2. Give four puffs of a blue/grey reliever (e.g. Ventolin, Asmol or Airomir). Use a spacer, if available. Give one puff into the spacer at a time with four breaths after each puff.
  3. Wait four minutes. If the person still cannot breathe normally, give another four puffs.
  4. If the person still cannot breathe normally CALL AN AMBULANCE IMMEDIATELY (dial 000), say they are having an asthma attack. Keep giving the reliever, four puffs every four minutes until the ambulance arrives.

In an emergency, if you are unsure whether someone is having an anaphylaxis reaction or an asthma attack, give the person their adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen) FIRST, then give their asthma reliever.  

For standard procedures to use when an adult or child is having an asthma attack, including how to use Bricanyl or Symbicort inhalers for first aid, the National Asthma Council Australia’s first aid poster can be downloaded or printed from

In Australia, one in 10 adults and children have asthma. Around 4 out of 5 people with asthma also have allergies, such as pollen-related hay fever.

If you have asthma, it is important to know what triggers an attack. Avoiding triggers, if possible, can help to control your asthma.

For more information, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website

Media enquiries

For further information, or to arrange an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact:

Lelde McCoy
The Reputation Group
Tel: 03 9645 7755    Mob: 0417 362 768
Email: [email protected]        

Adult First Aid Asthma Chart