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Asthma Health Center

Acute Asthma Attack Treatment for Children

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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

  • Find out if the child has an individualized asthma action plan from a health care provider.
  • If so, follow directions for giving asthma medication and seeking medical help for acute asthma attack.
  • Bring a copy of the child’s asthma action plan to show the ER staff.

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 January 21, 2016
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