Acute Asthma Attack Treatment for Children

Call 911 if the child is:

  • Having a hard time breathing
  • Constantly coughing
  • Unable to talk, eat, or play
  • Vomiting
  • Turning blue in the lips or fingers
  • Convulsing while breathing (using stomach muscles excessively to breathe)

If he does not have the above symptoms but is still complaining of trouble breathing or coughing, do the following:

1. Notify the Child’s Health Care Provider Immediately

2. Follow the Child’s Asthma Plan, if Possible

3. Give Quick-Relief Medicine

If the child has no asthma action plan but has an inhaler:

  • Sit child upright comfortably and loosen tight clothing.
  • Give one puff of quick-relief medicine from child's inhaler, always with a spacer.
  • Ask child to take four breaths from spacer.
  • Give three more puffs, with four breaths between each.
  • Wait four minutes. If there’s no improvement, give another four puffs.

If the child doesn’t have an inhaler, use one from a first aid kit. If you are sure this is an asthma attack and the child has used quick-relief asthma medicine before (albuterol), you can borrow someone else’s.

Follow Up

  • An emergency room doctor will check the severity of the attack and provide treatment, including medication.
  • The child may be discharged home or hospitalized for further care, depending on response to treatment.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on 1/, 016



KidsHealth: “When to Go to the ER if Your Child Has Asthma.”

St. Louis Children’s Hospital: “Asthma Can Be Controlled.”

DC Asthma Action Plan.

National Asthma Council Australia: “First Aid for Asthma.”

Handal, K. The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook, Little, Brown and Company, 1992.

Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement: “Emergency and Inpatient Management of Asthma Emergency Room Management.”

eMedicineHealth: “Asthma in Children.”

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