What to do if your child has an asthma attack

Knowing what to do when your child has an asthma attack could save their life

Easy-to-follow emergency advice on what to do if your child has an asthma attack, when to call 999 and when to see your doctor.

On this page:

Actions to take if your child has an asthma attack

  1. Help them to sit up – don’t let them lie down. Try to be calm
  2. Help them take one puff of their reliever inhaler (with their spacer, if they have it) every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a total of 10 puffs
  3. If they don’t have their blue inhaler, or it’s not helping, or if you are worried at any time, call 999 straightaway
  4. While you wait for an ambulance, your child can use their blue reliever again, every 30 to 60 seconds (up to 10 puffs) if they need to.

When to call 999

Don’t delay getting the help you need if your child has an asthma attack. Call 999 if your child’s reliever isn’t helping, or you’re worried at any time.

While you wait for an ambulance, your child can repeat step 4 above.

“An asthma attack is a real emergency, and could be life-threatening,” says nurse specialist Debby Waddell.

“Getting the right help when your child needs it is so important, to make sure your child is treated quickly. Never think you’re wasting anyone’s time.”

When to call your doctor

If you managed your child’s asthma attack with their blue reliever inhaler, and their symptoms improved, you still need to make an urgent same-day appointment with their doctor.

It’s important for them to have an urgent asthma review after the attack. 

Recognise the signs of an asthma attack

An asthma attack happens when your child’s asthma symptoms get much worse.

This can happen quite suddenly or can build up gradually over a few days.

Your child might:

  • find it hard to breathe
  • breathe more quickly
  • be unable to talk or walk or eat
  • wheeze and cough a lot
  • complain of a tight chest or a tummy ache
  • say their blue reliever inhaler isn’t helping, or they need it more than every four hours
  • be unusually quiet.

If your child needs to use their blue reliever inhaler three or more times a week, it’s a sign that their asthma is not well controlled.

Make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse to review their asthma as soon as possible.

What to do after an asthma attack. 

Understand your child's asthma symptoms

Last updated July 2020

Next review due July 2023