First Aid: Asthma Flare-Ups

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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



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican 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
(800) 842-7777
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


Related Articles

Definition: 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.
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.
Video: What Happens During an Asthma Flare-Up? Video: What Happens During an Asthma Flare-Up?
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.
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.
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.




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

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