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How to Handle Asthma Flare-Ups

First Aid
During an asthma flare-up (or attack), the airways in the lungs become irritated and swollen, making breathing harder.

Some flare-ups are mild, but others can be life-threatening. So it's important to know how to spot them and deal with them right away.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of an Asthma Flare-Up?

Of an asthma flare-up include:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • chest tightness
  • shortness of breath

Of a severe asthma flare-up include:

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

What Should I Do if My Child Has an Asthma Flare-Up?

Doctors usually give patients a detailed asthma action plan that includes how to prevent and handle flare-ups. If your child has an asthma flare-up, follow the plan's treatment guidelines. Because each child's asthma is different, each action plan will be too.

Get 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 the asthma action plan

What Can Help Prevent Asthma Flare-Ups?

To help prevent flare-ups:

  • Help your child to avoid the triggers that can cause flare-ups.
  • If your child is supposed to take a medicine every day, they should keep taking it, even if they feel fine and don’t have any symptoms.
  • If your child starts to feel asthma symptoms, they should take the medicine prescribed for quick relief of symptoms. If they already take a daily medicine, the “quick-relief” medicine might be extra doses of the daily medicine, or it might be a different type.
  • If your child uses an inhaler, they should always use a spacer with it.
  • Make sure your child always has medicine available for quick relief of symptoms (at home, at school, etc.).
  • Be sure your child gets a flu shot every year and is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Work with the doctor to follow your child's asthma action plan.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Sep 12, 2023

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