What to Do If You Think Your Child Is Having an Asthma Attack

The leaders in respiratory health knowledge, the Asthma & Respiratory Foundation, show us how to manage a suspected asthma attack using the acronym ‘ASTHMA’ 

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 mum+  Article by Asthma & Respiratory Foundation

What to Do If You Think Your Child Is Having an Asthma Attack

It can be really scary if you think your child may be having an asthma attack. Read our advice today and learn about the acronym ‘ASTHMA’, which can help you remember what to do if this happens in the future:

Assess – Sit – Treat – Help – Monitor – All ok!


Assess whether the asthma attack is mild, moderate, or severe.

Mild symptoms indicating that asthma is worsening can include:

  • slight wheeze
  • mild cough
  • coughing or wheezing when excited or running

Moderate symptoms indicating that asthma is worrying can include:

  • obvious breathing difficulties
  • persistent cough
  • difficulty speaking a complete sentence

Severe symptoms indicating an asthma emergency can include:

  • fear
  • gasping for breath
  • difficulty speaking more than one or two words
  • looking pale and sounding quiet
  • complaining that the reliever medicine is not working
  • unresponsive – doesn’t answer when spoken to

Dial 111 for an ambulance!

asthma attack mum+Sit

Sit your child upright and stay with them. Lean them forward slightly and support their arms either on their knees or on a table.


asthma attack mum+Treat

Treat mild asthma symptoms with two puffs of a reliever inhaler. Treat moderate or severe symptoms with six puffs of the inhaler. If the reliever medicine comes in a metered dose inhaler, use a spacer.

Put the spacer into the child’s mouth. Puff the inhaler once into the spacer and have the child breathe in and out six times. Encourage your child to breathe as normally as possible.

asthma attack mum+Help

If your child’s asthma does not start to get better after six minutes, or if you or your child are frightened, call an ambulance. Continue giving your child six puffs of their reliever inhaler every six minutes until help arrives. Make sure they take six slow breaths for each puff. Keep doing this until they get better, or until the ambulance arrives.

Remember: Six puffs … six breaths for each puff … and repeat every six minutes.

asthma attack mum+Monitor

Stay with your child and watch carefully, even if they seem to get better. If your child is not finding it easier to breathe, give repeat doses of the reliever inhaler and call an ambulance.

asthma attack mum+All OK

Your child can return to quiet activities when they no longer wheeze, cough, or feel breathless. Keep monitoring their symptoms and take action if required, following the steps in the action plan. If your child’s attacks are becoming more frequent or worrying, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learning how to manage your child's asthma is free of charge

Check out our learning tool!

Asthma & Respiratory FoundationOver at the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, we want you to have as much information as possible to look after your whānau if they have respiratory conditions.

We provide a free online learning tool to help you learn about managing your child’s asthma. Click the button to access the free online modules!

Expert Profile: Asthma & Respiratory Foundation

Leading improvements in respiratory health research, training and education.

Asthma & Respiratory FoundationThe Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is New Zealand’s not-for-profit sector authority on all respiratory conditions.

By raising awareness, funding research and providing resources and training, the organisation is aiming for significant reductions in hospital visits and death as a result of respiratory disease, as well as improving quality of care in our communities.

Check out the latest news or find out more on their website.


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