It starts with a bad day. You might be wheezing more than usual, or feeling more tired in general than you usually do. You take your first course of action:
You try resting. You try breathing exercises. You use your rescue medicine.
Then you find that your rescue medicine isn’t working as well as it usually does. You’re in fact still wheezing much more than on a normal day. You might be coughing more, or coughing up a different color of phlegm or mucus. Your legs may be swelling.
This is the time to call your doctor. Tell him or her the specifics of your new or unusual symptoms, and be sure to say that you’re having trouble breathing.
Your doctor might advise you to head to the hospital, or call 911 if you don’t have someone to drive you. This is especially likely if you can’t finish a sentence in one breath, you’re breathing fast and hard with no relief from your rescue medicine, your chest feels tight for more than 5 minutes, or your lips, hands, or feet turn blue.
It’s very helpful to have these criteria and stages of “a bad day” in mind at all times, to help you quickly evaluate when you should call your doctor or head to the hospital for emergency treatment.