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First Aid: Asthma Flare-Ups

First Aid
During an asthma flare-up or attack, the airways in the lungs become irritated and swollen, making breathing more difficult. While some flare-ups are mild, others can be life threatening, so it’s important to deal with them right away.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of an asthma flare-up include:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • chest tightness
  • shortness of breath

Signs of a severe asthma flare-up may include:

  • trouble breathing even when sitting still
  • difficulty speaking without pausing
  • feeling tired or drowsy
  • blueness around the lips
  • the areas below the ribs, between the ribs, and in the neck sink in with each attempt to inhale

What to Do

If your child is having an asthma flare-up, be sure to follow his or her specific asthma treatment guidelines. Many doctors provide a detailed asthma action plan for their patients. Because each child’s experience with asthma is different, each action plan will be too.

Seek Emergency Medical Care or Call 911

If Your Child:

  • begins to show signs of a severe flare-up
  • has a flare-up that enters the danger zone (red zone) of his or her action plan

Think Prevention!

Help prevent flare-ups by taking these steps:

  • Encourage and help your child to avoid substances that you know trigger flare-ups.
  • Make sure your child takes the long-term control medicine as directed by the doctor — even when your child feels well.
  • Make sure your child gets a flu shot every year.
  • Work with your child’s doctor to follow an asthma action plan.
  • Make sure your child never runs out of the prescribed medicines.
  • Ensure that your child takes the medicines to school and on trips.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014