Asthma UK community forum


hey everyone.

I am relatively new to asthma and as far as I am aware I have never had a ""proper attack"".

What I mean is, is simple chest pain an attack? or being breathless? or coughing a lot? or do you have to have all three for it to be an attack? (i very rarely wheeze)

also I was wandering, if someone is breathless, how long would it take for the body to get cyanosis and start turning blue?

thank you everyone,

These are questions which i feel stupid asking my asthma nurse!

Lizzie xxx

7 Replies

An attack is generally where your symptomatic and not being relieved by your inhaler. It doesn't always mean hospital and quite a few people with asthma will never have an attack where they need hospital treatment but that doesn't mean they won't/haven't had attacks.

If your suffering from cyanosis it means you are VERY poorly and need to be calling an ambulance or getting yourself to hospital asap. In asthma sufferers it wouldn't come about with just breathlessness you would experience all you normal symptoms as well, but to a much greater degree than normal. Very few people with experience cyanosis as the point at which it occurs is as said above when you really are very unwell, and you would know all about.

Hope that helps.


dont worry i havent actually got cyanosis as we speak! yes i realise this is a very dangerous thing, but was wandering whether everyone with breathing problems will eventually get it if untreated.

as for the attacks, does that mean that every time my chest for example feels tight or hurts, this is what people refer to as an attack? and i suppose a mild one at that?

thank you for your quick response :)


Not everyone will get it but you should get treated long before it happens. If the attack is progressive and getting worse and worse than you would probably eventually get cyanosis but for a lot of asthmatics they wouldn't reach this stage and you'd feel much to poorly just to leave it. As for other breathing problems, it depends what they are, breathlessness alone wouldn't lead to cyanosis but if the breathlessness was caused by say lung disease, then it might. If you ever get cyanosis you need to call an ambulance immediately as it really is a sign of being very ill.

There's no set definition for an attack. What your describing it what is generally called being symptomatic, an attack normally has a few symptoms and kind of forces you to stop what your doing and use a lot of your reliever. If the symptoms are just 'there' i.e. your aware of them but there not causing an issue then it's probably not what most people would describe as an attack.

Also the meaning of an attack differs. For some people they call attacks only when they need to go to hospital, others might see it as when they need more than usual amounts of their reliever and some when they've got symptoms.



Hi there,

I'm really new to it too (diagnosed 2 months ago).

I've never said 'attack' because I've always thought that would be really serious. I'm not a wheezer, so bad days are just feeling like someone's sitting on my chest all day. I dint really know what's bad and what's not, it's hard to know because everyone's experience of asthma seems so different.

Hope you feel better soon.


I too was only diagnosed in June. Yeah I wondered what it defined as an 'attack', the worst mine has got (when not exercise induced) it having tight chest, cough and SOB and needed 4 puffs of Vent to calm things down but wouldn't think this to be an attack. My friend however has well controlled asthma so when she gets SOB and tight chest she calls it an attack even if 2 puffs calms things down. I guess its personal?


well first of all i am glad to hear that turning blue is not a common thing! its just something i read somewhere and something you see in films, and because i was so unclear as to what an attack was, i was worried that i would have one and not know how serious it was and then start turning blue lol!

So thank you everyone for giving me info regarding the cyanosis.

as for the attacks: well it def looks like we all have different ideas as to what one is! at the moment I am very very stressed about an exam i have this thursday and it is making me cough alot at night and in the morning and I feel a constant pain in my chest which leads to SOB if i do something to strenuous - like walking lol! So i guess its not an attack until im in trouble and my inhaler doesnt work? that seems to be the general idea here. in which case i have never had one since i was diagnosed in september :) my ventolin always works :)

which actually leads me to another question (sorry about the long message guys!)

when i feel tight chested etc. i take my ventolin (used to be salbutamol but nor i have ventolin for the first time) but the ventolin unlike other inhalers seems to a) make my chest worse BEFORE it makes it better and b) seems to need more of it till it takes effect? So if i am SOB and tight chested and i take a couple of puffs, i feel even more tight chested and then i take a couple more and then im fine like nothing ever happened - well almost nothing anyways.

anyone else experience this?

Lizzie xxx



Hi There,

what you seem to have read about is what's called ""peripheral cyanosis"". This affects the lips & nail beds principally. Not to be confused with ""Central Cyanosis"" which affects a greater area including the abdomen and is normally seen in respiratory or cardiac arrest. Most people go through life and never experience ( or see ) central cyanosis. If in doubt or worried get medical help quickly Liz x


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