What is an Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack is what happens when asthma “act up” and your child has a hard time breathing. It happens very fast. This is serious. Your child needs to be given their quick relief medicine immediately. If your child is not better in a couple of minutes after the medicine, you should call 911 or get to doctor or hospital emergency room right away.

Most children have some early warning signs before a full attack. Treating attacks early can prevent very bad breathing problems. Here are some common early warning signs of an asthma attack. It is important to be aware of them. Also, remember the last time your child had an asthma attack. Think about what your child’s usual early warning signs are:

  • A cough (even a little cough is something to treat!)
  • Wheezing (whistling sound) when breathing in and out
  • A “funny feeling” or discomfort in chest
  • Anxiety or panic

Early warning signs of an asthma attack may be different from one child to another. It’s important to be aware of your child’s signs so you can treat them or get to your doctor.

If your child is showing signs and they are getting worse, get help from your doctor or local hospital right away. Here are some signs that it is an emergency:

  • Breathing in a different way: faster, or slower, or more shallow than usual
  • Using their stomach muscles to breathe, you will see their belly going in and out quickly
  • Coughing or wheezing that does not stop
  • Difficulty speaking in full sentences
  • Bluish fingernails or lips
  • Pale, sweaty face
  • Symptoms get worse even though child just received medication

Asthma Triggers in Your Child’s Environment

Things that cause asthma symptoms are called triggers or allergens. Limiting or avoiding your child’s exposure to asthma triggers are will help to prevent asthma attacks. This is a very important aspect of managing asthma.

How to control your child’s asthma and prevent asthma attacks

There are three main aspects of controlling your child’s asthma: medical care, medications, and avoiding or reducing things in the child’s environment that trigger your child’s asthma.

There are a variety of triggers that can make your child’s asthma worse. Some common triggers are smoke, some foods, colds, dust, pets, pollen, weather, cockroaches, strong odors such as perfumes, and strong emotions. Click on the links below to the American Lung Association and the Centers for Disease Control pages for helpful information on different triggers and how to avoid or control them.