Delphine Tuot, MDCM, MAS Content updated on June 16, 2020 - Medically reviewed by Delphine Tuot, MDCM, MAS

Gout attacks, also called flares, or flare-ups, can come on suddenly and be extremely painful. During a gout attack you may have pain, swelling, and/or redness in your affected joint.

Gout attacks can last from a few hours, to several days. When you have acute gout, you may only have attacks once or twice a year. When you have chronic gout, attacks happen more regularly, with shorter breaks in between attacks.

There are things you can do to manage your symptoms during gout attacks. The main goal of treatment during an attack is to decrease joint pain and swelling. If you already take a medicine to lower uric acid at the time of an attack, you should continue your regular treatment. If you do not already take a medicine to lower uric acid at the time of an attack, you should not start treatment during an attack, but rather start treatment afterwards, on your doctor’s advice.

Some ways to manage gout pain and swelling during an attack are:

  • Take medicines including NSAIDS, colchine, and steroids. Talk to your doctor before starting any medicines. Some medicines like NSAIDS are not suggested when you have kidney disease.
  • Keep your body hydrated by drinking water. If you have fluid restrictions because of kidney disease, talk to your doctor or dietitian about managing your fluid and gout.
  • Avoid alcohol and food high in purines.
  • Keep pressure off your joint, e.g. try walking with a cane if your toes or feet are affected.
  • Elevate your affected joint.
  • Use an icepack to keep your joint cool.
  • Find ways to manage stress from the pain, like deep-breathing and meditation.

If the pain during a gout attack does not get better at all within 48 hours, call your doctor to ask about other treatments you can try.

Treatments are also available to prevent gout attacks from happening in the first place. Having gout attacks more often can increase your chances of having even more attacks in the future, so controlling the condition from the start is important. Talk to your doctor about whether medicines to prevent gout attacks are right for you.