Asthma in children

Will my child need to go to hospital?

Most people diagnosed with asthma can manage their symptoms at home and don’t need to go to hospital.

Sometimes children might have symptoms before a diagnosis of asthma. Or symptoms can flare up in response to triggers, even when you follow your child’s asthma plan. This is called an asthma attack and your child may need to go to hospital.

How to spot an asthma attack:

  • your child’s symptoms are getting worse quickly
  • their reliever inhaler isn’t helping (if they have one)
  • they’re breathing very quickly and seem short of breath. If your child is older, you may notice that they can’t complete a sentence in one breath. Preschool children may sit doing nothing but working hard to breathe, with their ribs sucking in and tummy sticking out
  • they’re wheezing
  • they’re complaining of a tummy ache
  • their lips and tongue have a blue tinge

What if I think my child is having an asthma attack?

  • Get them to sit up straight
  • Give them their reliever inhaler. For mild symptoms they would take 2 puffs, but if you think they’re having an attack, it’s OK to give them up to 10 puffs. You should space these out – 1 puff at a time every 30-60 seconds
  • If their symptoms don’t improve, call an ambulance
  • If the ambulance is taking longer than 15 minutes to arrive, you can give them their reliever inhaler again in the same way as before.

It’s very important for you get help quickly if your child is having an asthma attack. Don’t hesitate to call 999.

If you have to go to A&E, take their written asthma action plan with you.

Next: how can I help to manage my child’s asthma? >

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Last medically reviewed: September 2019. Due for review: September 2022

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.