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    Asthma in Children: Knowing How Bad an Attack Is - Topic Overview

    It can be difficult to know whether your child is having a mild, moderate, or severe asthma attack. The following chart may help you. Talk with a doctor if you are unable to tell how severe your child's symptoms are.

    Gauging the severity of your child's asthma attack
    Factor Mild attack Moderate attack Severe attack

    Peak expiratory flow

    80% to 100% of personal best

    50% to 79% of personal best

    Less than 50% of personal best


    Normal or slightly faster

    Faster than normal

    Rapid, and the child may appear preoccupied with breathing; may want to sit upright to help breathing


    Mild or no shortness of breath; can speak in full sentences

    Short of breath; can speak in short phrases or parts of sentences

    Very short of breath; speaks in single words or short phrases


    Does not or slightly uses chest muscles to breathe

    Uses chest and neck muscles to breathe. The skin between, under, and above the ribs collapses inward with each breath.

    Uses chest and neck muscles to breathe and may open nostrils wide; may clutch at the chest


    Normal skin color

    Pale skin color

    Very pale or bluish skin color; may sweat more than normal


    Wheezes while breathing out

    Wheezes while breathing in and out

    Does not wheeze while breathing. This indicates little or no air in the airways.


    Normally alert

    Normally alert

    Not as alert as usual and may appear anxious

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: /2, 14 1
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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