Handling an Asthma Flare-Up

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Parents

Flare-ups can be dangerous, so if your child is having them often and using rescue medication more than a couple of times a week, talk to your doctor. It's possible that your child's asthma action plan needs to be adjusted.

Predicting Flare-Ups

The severity and duration of asthma flare-ups vary from person to person and even from attack to attack. They might happen without warning, with sudden coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. But because people with asthma have inflamed airways that worsen with gradual exposure to triggers, flare-ups can also build up over time, especially in those whose asthma isn't well controlled.

Flare-ups can and should be treated at their earliest stages, so it's important to recognize early warning signs. These clues are unique to each child and might be the same or different with each asthma flare-up. Early warning signs include:

  • coughing, even if your child has no cold
  • throat clearing
  • rapid or irregular breathing
  • unusual fatigue
  • trouble sitting or standing still
  • restless sleep

A peak flow meter can help predict when a flare-up may be on its way.

Preventing Flare-Ups

Managing your child's asthma includes doing all you can to avoid flare-ups. That means working with your child to:

  • take all medication as the doctor prescribed
  • keep rescue medicine on hand at all times
  • take peak flow meter readings as recommended by the doctor
  • avoid triggers, such as allergens

If Your Child Has a Flare-Up

Not all flare-ups can be prevented, and because they can be life threatening, they demand immediate attention. Your child might need to take rescue medication, visit the doctor, or even go to the hospital. For that reason, you should have an asthma action plan.

Work with the doctor to write this plan, which provides instructions on how to handle changes in your child's breathing. This will help you know exactly what to do, even in an emergency.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: August 2011



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican 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.
OrganizationAmerican 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
(212) 315-8700
OrganizationAllergy 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
Web SiteAIRNow A cross-agency U.S. government website, AIRNow provides useful air quality information, including daily Air Quality Index forecasts and details on conditions in more than 300 U.S. cities.


Related Articles

Asthma Flare-Ups Instruction Sheet During an asthma flare-up or attack the airways in a child's lungs become more 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.
What's a Peak Flow Meter? An inexpensive, portable device called a peak flow meter measures lung function in kids with asthma, which can help them manage the condition and avoid major flare-ups.
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.
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.
When to Go to the ER if Your Child Has Asthma If your child has asthma, it's important to know when going to the ER is the right choice.
Dealing With Asthma Triggers Triggers - substances, weather conditions, or activities - can lead to flare-ups in kids with asthma. By knowing and avoiding triggers, you'll help minimize your child's asthma symptoms.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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