When to go to A&E

Having a flare-up of your lung disease can be a scary experience, but some people are unsure when to seek emergency medical treatment.An A&E department in a hospital (also known as accident and emergency department, or Casualty) deals with life-threatening emergencies. Breathing difficulties are classed as an emergency and should be treated in A&E, especially if your symptoms are not immediately relieved by your rescue medication.

When should I go to A&E?

If you are struggling to breathe (cannot speak because you are trying to catch your breath), lose consciousness, or if you have chest pain, then you or someone with you should phone 999.

When shouldn’t I go to A&E?

There are other situations when you might not need to visit A&E, but you do still need to see a healthcare professional. If you notice any of the following, you should make an appointment with your GP or practice nurse as soon as possible. If you do not have a GP, you can find information about local services on our service finder web page. 

If you are under the care of a specialist respiratory team and have an emergency contact number contact the team as soon as you feel a change in your breathing symptoms:

  • Your lung symptoms are generally getting worse, or you are having flare ups more often.
  • Your symptoms are stopping you from doing your normal day-to-day activities (work, family life, personal care)
  • You have had to use your rescue medication more often than normal. Remember, you should contact your GP or Respiratory Team before you start taking rescue medication.

If you are not sure where to go for help, you can phone 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How should I prepare for an emergency?

Hopefully you will never have to visit an A&E department for emergency treatment for your lung condition, but there are a few things you can do so that you are prepared.

  • Not all hospitals have an A&E department. You can find the nearest one here
  • Talk to your friends and family about your lung condition, and what they need to do if you suddenly have difficulty breathing as it may affect your ability to talk
  • Keep an up-to-date list of all your medications to take with you to hospital
  • You can find more information on what to expect if you have to visit A&E here, which may help you feel less nervous if you do have to go. Usually, you will be seen quickly by a doctor or nurse and may be given extra oxygen to breathe in, and/or other medication to help you breathe more easily.