Asthma attack

If your child’s asthma suddenly get much worse (asthma attack), they will require urgent treatment. Signs of an asthma attack include:

  • being very wheezy
  • having a tight chest
  • finding it hard to breath
  • Being too breathless to speak is a sign of a severe asthma attack and needs emergency treatment.

Looking after your child during an asthma attack

Sometimes there is no obvious cause for your child’s asthma attack, but the most common triggers are viral infections (coughs, colds and chest infections), sudden changes in the weather and exposure to cigarette smoke.

If your child is:

  • Too breathless to talk / eat or drink
  • Has blue lips
  • Having symptoms of cough/wheeze or breathlessness which are getting worse despite 10 puffs blue (salbutamol) inhaler every 4 hours
  • Confused and drowsy
Ring 999 immediately for help. Give 10 puffs of blue (salbutamol) reliever inhaler every 10 minutes until ambulance arrives.

Keep child in upright position and reassure them.

If your child is:

  • Wheezing and breathless and blue (salbutamol) reliever inhaler 2-5 puffs is not lasting 4 hours
  • Having a cough or wheeze/tight chest during the day and night
  • Too breathless to run / play / do normal activities.
Immediately contact your GP and make an appointment for your child to be seen that day face to face.

Increase blue (salbutamol) reliever inhaler 6-10 puffs every 4 hours.

If your child starts to cough, wheeze or has a tight chest but can continue day to day activities.

Give 2-5 puffs blue (salbutamol) reliever inhaler every 4 hours until symptoms improve.

What can you do to reduce the risk of your child having another asthma attack?

1) Children with poorly controlled asthma are much more likely to have an asthma attack compared to children whose asthma is well controlled.

Signs of poorly controlled asthma include your child having a regular cough at night (nocturnal cough), being wheezy or more breathless than other children when they run around (exertional dyspnoea) or using their reliever inhaler more often than expected.

  • Arrange to see you GP or asthma nurse if they are experiencing such symptoms.

2) It is vital that your child uses their inhalers correctly.

Your child’s asthma will not be controlled if their medicines are not getting into their lungs.


Choose appropriate sized spacer with mask (or mouthpiece if child is over 3 years with good technique and is not significantly short of breath).

  1. Shake the inhaler well and remove cap
  2. Fit the inhaler into the opening at the end of the spacer
  3. Place mask over the child's face or mouthpiece in their mouth ensuring a good seal
  4. Press the inhaler once and allow the child to take 5 slow breaths or slow count to 10 between ease dose
  5. Remove the inhaler and shake between every puff. Wait 1 minute between puffs.

Repeat steps 1-5 for subsequent doses.

Plastic spacers should be washed before 1st use and every month as per manufacturer's guidelines.

For videos on using your child's inhaler and spacer correctly see goo.gl/235DQ


See your practice nurse or doctor if you are not sure whether your child is using their inhaler properly.

3) Avoid triggers where possible:

Although it is extremely difficult to avoid your child getting a viral infection or experiencing changes in the weather, you can reduce exposure to common irritants such as cigarette smoke. Even where adults smoke away from their children, smoke on their clothes and hair is likely to make their child’s asthma worse.

4) Your child should have an influenza immunisation every autumn (the flu jab).

Not only can flu trigger an asthma attack in your child, your child is more likely to experience severe influenza if they have asthma. Protect them by having them vaccinated every year

Where should you seek help?

Self Care

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between.

Self-care

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Local Pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health Visitors

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School Nurses

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GP (General Practitioner)

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

NHS 111

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Accident and Emergency

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
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