One of the main goals of parents whose kids have asthma is avoiding trips to the emergency room (ER) for breathing problems. But it's also important to know when going to the ER is the right choice.
You'll be better prepared to make that decision if you discuss it with your doctor before your child has a severe flare-up. The doctor's instructions should be included in the asthma action plan. The plan will list specific symptoms that are your cue to go to the ER. If old enough, your child also should know what these signs are.
Everyone's asthma is different. Some kids cough only at night, while others have flare-ups whenever they get a cold or exercise outside.
As you manage your child's asthma, pay attention to what happens before a flare-up so that you know the early warning signs. These signs might not mean that a flare-up definitely will happen, but they can help you to plan ahead.
Other early warning signs of a flare-up can include:
Communicate with your doctor. Be sure to call the doctor at the earliest sign of a flare-up or if you have any other concerns. Being prepared means you might prevent your child's symptoms from worsening and thus can make a trip to the doctor's office instead of to the ER.
Sometimes your child must receive medical care very quickly. If any of the follow symptoms occur see your doctor immediately, go to the ER, or call an ambulance:
Planning can make trips to the ER less stressful for you and your child. Here are some tips to try:
Well-managed asthma is rarely life threatening. People who have died from asthma usually haven't taken their medications as prescribed and have a history of repeated severe asthma flare-ups and emergency care.
If you and your child take asthma seriously and work to manage it, you can reduce the chances that your child will need to go to the ER.
It's important to monitor your child's asthma using the written asthma action plan your doctor helps you create. This plan will outline day-to-day treatment, symptoms to watch for, and step-by-step instructions to follow during a flare-up.
Some key points of a plan are:
The doctor can help you identify the triggers that might cause asthma flare-ups, such as tobacco smoke, animals, dust mites, mold, pollen, perfumes, aspirin, weather change, cold air, exercise, and respiratory infections.
Your child should take controller medications as prescribed by the doctor, even when feeling fine. Skipping doses can cause the lungs to become more inflamed, which can lead to a decrease in lung function. (This can happen without your child even experiencing any symptoms.) It also increases the risk of more frequent and severe flare-ups.
Many kids go to the ER simply because they didn't have their rescue medications handy. Your child should have rescue medication accessible at all times. This includes making arrangements to keep the medications at school with the nurse, at sporting events meets, and while traveling.
As soon as your child is old enough, make sure he or she understands the asthma action plan and the importance of following it. Some kids with asthma, especially teens, resist taking controller medications and rely instead on their rescue medications to help them on an as-needed basis. This is never a good idea and will increase your child's chances of needing emergency care.
The chances of a serious asthma flare-up can be reduced if both parent and child understand and follow the action plan. Remember to call your doctor even during early flare-ups or if you have questions about your action plan.
Reviewed by: Nicole A. Green, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology|
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
|American Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association|
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
|Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics (AAN-MA) Through education, advocacy, community outreach, and research, AAN-MA hopes to eliminate suffering and fatalities due to asthma and allergies. AAN-MA offers news, drug recall information, tips, and more for treating allergies and asthma. Call: (800) 878-4403|
|What's an Asthma Action Plan? An asthma action plan, or management plan, is a written plan that helps you take control of your asthma. Get the details in this article.|
|Dealing With an Asthma Flare-Up Asthma flare-ups, or attacks, can be handled, but it's even better if you can prevent them from happening. Find out how to deal with flare-ups.|
|Your House: How to Make It Asthma-Safe If you have asthma, you want to breathe easy at home. Find out how in this article for kids.|
|What's an Asthma Action Plan? If you have asthma, you'll want to have an asthma action plan. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|What's an Asthma Flare-Up? An asthma flare-up (or attack) can cause coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. Sometimes, symptoms can be severe. Find out what causes flare-ups and what you can do in this article.|
|Asthma Asthma is a condition that affects a person's airways, also known as breathing tubes. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Asthma Millions of teens in the United States have asthma, a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. Here are the basics on symptoms, triggers, and treatments.|
|Babysitting: Dealing With Asthma Flare-Ups What should you do if a child you're babysitting has an asthma flare-up? Our tip sheet can help you be prepared.|
|Asthma Center Asthma keeps more kids home from school than any other chronic illness. Learn how to help your child manage the condition, stay healthy, and stay in school.|
|Asthma Center Asthma means breathing problems. Find out what's going on in the lungs and how to stay healthy, if you have it.|
|Asthma Center Visit our Asthma Center for information and advice on managing and living with asthma.|
|Is it a Medical Emergency? Should you head straight for the emergency room when your child is hurt? Different problems require different levels of care, and you have many options.|
|How to Avoid the ER if You Have Asthma Going to the ER is the last resort for someone who has asthma. The good news is that you can prevent this by getting your asthma under control. Get some tips on how.|
|Handling an Asthma Flare-Up Because they can be life threatening, asthma flare-ups can and should be treated at their earliest stages. So it's important to recognize their early warning signs.|
|Knowing Your Child's Medical History In an emergency, health care professionals will have many questions about a patient's medical history. It's easy to compile this information now, and it could save critical minutes later.|
|Handling an Asthma Flare-Up How can you prepare for an asthma flare-up? Find out in this article for kids.|
|What's an Asthma Flare-Up? A kid who has asthma might have an asthma attack (or flare-up). Find out more in this article for kids.|
|What's an Asthma Flare-Up? When symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath, become more severe, more frequent, or both, it's known as an asthma flare-up.|
|What's an Asthma Action Plan? An asthma action plan (also called a management plan) is a written plan that you develop with your child's doctor to help control your child's asthma.|
|Going to the Emergency Room Knowing what to expect when you need to take your child to the emergency room can help make it a little less stressful.|
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