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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 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.

Signs & Symptoms of an Asthma Flare-Up

Signs of an asthma flare-up include:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • chest tightness
  • shortness of breath

Signs of a severe asthma flare-up 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

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

Think Prevention!

To help prevent flare-ups:

  • Help your child to avoid the triggers that can cause flare-ups.
  • Make sure your child takes the long-term control medicine as directed by the doctor — even when feeling well.
  • Make sure your child always has the prescribed medicines and takes them to school and on trips.
  • Be sure your child gets a flu shot every year.
  • Work with the doctor to follow your child's asthma action plan.
Date reviewed: August 2017

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

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