Managing an Asthma Attack

Early Signs Asthma is Getting Worse:

It is important to notice early warning signs such as the 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 Reliever medicine (blue) more than 3 times a week 

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 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 noise because the airways are so blocked.
  • As your child breathes in, the skin may be sucked in at the throat, collarbone or between or under the ribs.

If Your Child Is Having An Asthma Attack:


  • Move your child away from known asthma triggers.
  • Give Reliever medicine for symptoms. It should help within 10 minutes. If the Reliever medicine is needed every 4 hours, call your doctor.
  • 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.


Asthma Allie Says:

 "Asthma Can be Controlled!"


The Children's Allergy & Asthma Education Centre © 2011, 2014