How to Manage an Asthma Attack

It is important to notice early warning signs such as: start of a cold or a runny nose cough at night or early morning cough, wheeze (whistling noise), shortness of breath or chest tightness with activities needing to take more Reliever (blue) medicine.

How to Manage an Asthma Attack

What Happens during an Asthma Attack:

  • The inside of the airways becomes swollen and makes more mucous.
  • Muscles around the outside of the airways tighten.
  • The opening inside the airways becomes smaller and it becomes harder to breathe..

Signs of an Asthma Attack:

  • Your child may feel short of breath, be coughing and complain of a tight feeling in the chest. They may have trouble talking, exercising or eating.
  • You may hear wheezing. During a severe asthma attack, there may be no wheezing because the airways are so blocked.
  • As your child breathes in, the skin may be sucked in at the throat or between or under the ribs.

If Your Child Is Having an Asthma Attack:


  • Give Reliever medicine for symptoms. It should help within 10 minutes. If the Reliever medicine is needed every 4 hours, call your doctor.
  • Move your child away from known asthma triggers.
  • After Reliever medicine is given, help your child to relax. Breathing exercises may help older children. They should be practiced when your child is well.

Go To The Emergency Department:

  • If your child needs Reliever medicine in less than 3 hours OR
  • Reliever medicine does not begin to improve breathing within 10 minutes


  • Use Reliever medicine as much as needed on the way to the Emergency Department.

*Examples of Reliever medicine are: salbutamol: Ventolin®, Airomir®, terbutaline: Bricanyl®, Oxeze®.
*Some patients use a Combination medicine, Symbicort® or Zenhale® as Controller and Reliever medicine.

How To Prevent An Asthma Attack:

  • Take an active part in caring for your child’s asthma.
  • Watch for early signs that asthma is getting worse.
  • Have your doctor complete an Asthma Action Plan and know how to use it.
  • See your doctor to review your Asthma Action Plan twice a year.
  • Know your child’s asthma triggers and avoid them.
  • Know about your child’s asthma medicines and how to use them.
  • Keep learning as much as you can about asthma.