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What to do if your child has an asthma attack

Your child's behavior can be an early warning that asthma is getting worse. Work with your child's doctor to keep symptoms under control.

If your child has asthma, you can keep symptoms at bay by following your doctor's instructions, keeping up with medications and avoiding triggers that make things worse.

But even if you do everything right, there's no guarantee your child will never have an asthma episode.

That's why it's important to know—beforehand—what to do during an asthma attack.

Make a plan

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says you and your child's doctor should have an asthma action plan ready. The plan should describe what to do if your child's asthma gets worse, including what medications to take, when you should call the doctor and when to go to the hospital.

Signs that your child's asthma is getting worse may include:

  • Coughing, wheezing or constant throat clearing.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Trouble speaking in full sentences.
  • Unusually pale skin.

What to do

When asthma symptoms get worse, stay calm and help your child relax. Use your tone of voice and attitude to show that you can manage the situation.

If you can identify what's triggering the episode, remove it—or remove your child from the area.

Give your child any medication your doctor has recommended for use during an asthma attack. If things don't improve after the medicine has had time to work, or if your child's symptoms get worse, the American Lung Association says medical care is needed.

Likewise, get medical help if your child:

  • Is sucking in his or her chest, neck or abdomen to breathe.
  • Has trouble walking.
  • Is able to speak only in single words or short sentences.
  • Has a peak flow rate that's less than 50% of his or her normal rate.

Go to the doctor's office or the emergency room right away if your child's lips or fingernails turn gray or blue.

Reviewed 10/22/2021

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