Be on Alert for the Warning Signs of an Asthma Attack

When your child has asthma, you’re always on the watch for a possible asthma attack: coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing and chest tightness. But other more subtle signs of an attack may surprise you. 

Watch for these early warning signs in your child, too: 

  • Itchy neck 
  • Dark bags under the eyes 
  • Feeling tired 
  • Being short-tempered or irritable 
  • Being nervous or on edge 

What should you do if your child has these signs? Use a peak-flow meter to see if airways are narrow or blocked. If the peak-flow value is low or other  asthma symptoms like wheezing appear, it’s time to use quick-relief, or rescue medicine (called bronchodilators). These drugs help relax the muscles in your child’s airways, making breathing easier. 

Make sure you have an Asthma Action Plan outlining what to do when your child’s asthma flares up. Share the plan at your child’s school and with any caregivers, including grandparents and babysitters. 

Signs of Worsening Asthma 
It’s important to keep your child’s asthma under control. Talk with your child’s doctor if your child has any of the signs below, which could indicate worsening asthma: 

  • Asthma symptoms are more severe, occur more often, are bothersome at night or cause your child to lose sleep. 
    • Keep a record of your child’s peak-flow meter readings so you can tell when the readings are normal or not. Your doctor might also ask you to track these readings daily for a couple of weeks leading up to an office visit. 
  • Your child is missing school because of asthma or cannot do activities as usual. 
  • Your child’s peak-flow meter is low or varies from day-to-day. 
  • Your child’s asthma medicine doesn’t seem to work as well any more. 
  • Your child needs quick-relief medicine two or more times per week. 
  • Your child needs to go to the hospital because of an asthma attack. 

A change in medicine or other steps might help get your child’s asthma symptoms under control. 

Danger signs 
If your child has any of these symptoms, call 911 right away: 

  • Trouble walking or talking 
  • Hunching over 
  • Lips or fingernails are blue or gray 
  • Breathing very slowly 
  • Fast pulse 
  • Severe drowsiness or confusion 
  • Severe anxiety due to shortness of breath 

To learn more about Asthma and the Taking on Asthma initiative, visit our website! 


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