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First Aid & Emergencies

Babysitting: Dealing With Asthma Flare-Ups

When a child has an asthma flare-up, the small airways in the lungs become irritated and swollen, making breathing difficult.

Some asthma flare-ups are mild and others can be severe. It’s very important to deal with any kind of asthma flare-up right away. Many kids have a special treatment plan for an asthma flare-up. If you know a child you’re caring for has asthma, ask the parents if they have an asthma treatment plan (also called an “asthma action plan”). If they do, and the child has an asthma flare-up, follow the steps in the plan carefully.

Possible signs of a mild asthma flare-up:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • chest tightness

Possible signs of a severe asthma flare-up:

  • trouble breathing even when sitting still
  • difficult speaking without pausing
  • feeling tired or drowsy
  • blueness around the lips
  • the areas below the child’s ribs, between the ribs, and in the neck sink in with each breath

If a child shows signs of a severe flare-up, call 911 immediately and then contact the child’s parents.

Help prevent asthma flare-ups by:

  • encouraging the child to avoid doing things that trigger flare-ups
  • keeping track of the child’s asthma medicine schedule
  • keeping inhalers or other medicine where you can find them, just in case an attack happens

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: April 2013