What is asthma attack in children?

Asthma Attack in Children

Asthma attack in children: Overview

During an asthma attack, the airways swell and narrow. This makes it hard for your child to breathe. Severe asthma attacks can be dangerous. But you can help prevent these attacks by keeping your child's asthma under control and treating symptoms before they get bad. Symptoms include being short of breath, having chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Noting and treating these symptoms can also help you avoid trips to the emergency room.

If you notice that your child has any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

How is an asthma attack in children treated?

Quick-relief medicines are given to relax the airways so your child can breathe easier. Corticosteroid medicines are used to reduce inflammation. They may be inhaled or given as pills or a shot. Some asthma attacks may need treatment in the hospital. Your child may get extra oxygen or help with breathing if needed.

Asthma: Keeping Your Child Out of the Hospital

How can you care for your child who has asthma attacks?

Help your child follow their asthma action plan. If your child doesn't have an action plan, get one from their doctor. It includes the quick-relief medicines your child will take if they have an attack. Use asthma medicines as directed.

What puts your child at risk for very bad asthma attacks?

Your child may be at increased risk for very bad asthma attacks if he or she:

  • Is an infant with asthma symptoms.
  • Has a history of very bad symptoms, such as asthma attacks that get worse quickly and frequent nighttime symptoms.
  • Has a hard time taking medicines or often has to use quick-relief medicines (short-acting beta2-agonists) such as albuterol.
  • Has frequent changes in peak expiratory flow.
  • Has symptoms that last for a long time.
  • Doesn't use oral steroid medicines soon enough during an attack.
  • Doesn't have good support from family and friends.

Triggers, such as air pollution, pollen, pet dander, and colds and flu, also may make asthma worse and may lead to asthma attacks.

What causes asthma symptoms in children at night?

Delayed allergic reactions might cause your child to have asthma symptoms at night. Sometimes allergens that get in the airway can cause problems up to 8 hours later. Medicine that wears off in early morning might also cause your child to wake up at night.

How bad is your child's asthma attack?

You can use your child's asthma action plan to help figure out how bad an attack is. You can look at things like how hard it is for your child to breathe, how much your child is wheezing, or how alert your child is.

Asthma attack in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's symptoms do not get better after you've followed the asthma action plan.
  • Your child has new or worse trouble breathing.
  • Your child's coughing or wheezing gets worse.
  • Your child coughs up dark brown or bloody mucus (sputum).
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child needs quick-relief medicine on more than 2 days a week within a month (unless it is just for exercise).
  • Your child coughs more deeply or more often, especially if you notice more mucus or a change in the color of the mucus.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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