During an asthma attack the patient finds it hard to breathe and may need help until an ambulance arrives.

Quick help 

  • Check that the person is happy for you to touch them before you give first aid. If they are unconscious and you need to check for injuries, or give lifesaving first aid, then don’t delay.
  • Sit the person down.
  • Help them use their blue or grey puffer (inhaler).
  • If the person does not have a blue or grey puffer, or if it's not working, call 111 and ask for an ambulance.


What to look for

Difficulty breathing: The person struggles for air when they try to breathe or speak.

Can't stop coughing: The person breathes noisily and coughs a lot.

Unusual skin colour: The person may have blueish lips and fingertips.

Relief medicine for an asthma attack usually comes in a blue or gray inhaler (puffer) device.

If the person does not have any relief medicine or if the medicine is not working, call 111 for an ambulance.

How you can help


  1. Sit the person down with their arms resting on a table if possible. 

  2. Help them take their ‘reliever’ medication (a blue or grey puffer) using a spacer if they have one.  

  3. One puff into the spacer followed by 6 breaths. Repeat this until the person feels better or an ambulance arrives. 

  4. If the person is using an inhaler (puffer) without a spacer, take one puff every minute (more or less) until they recover, or an ambulance arrives.
  5. If the person does not have their own puffer, ask if anyone nearby has one you can borrow.


  1. Keep the person quiet and relaxed until they are breathing normally again. 

  2. If the person is a child tell their parents or whānau what happened so they can arrange for a check-up with their doctor.


If you have a person in urgent need of medical attention, call 111 now.


Take a First Aid CourseBuy a St John first aid KitBuy the St John first aid BookTXT 111