Spotting symptoms of asthma in your child

Does your child cough? Wheeze? Get breathless? Spot the signs and decide whether to talk to your doctor about asthma

Ask your doctor about asthma if your child or baby has one or more of these tell-tale symptoms


  • A cough that won’t go away or keeps coming back.
  • A night time/early morning cough – this is common in children with asthma.
  • A cough after doing exercise or being active.


  • A whistling sound when they breathe.

Tight chest

  • A ‘tummy ache’ is how children might describe it.
  • They might rub their tummy or chest.

Difficulty breathing

  • Listen for faster breathing than usual.
  • Their tummy might suck in.
  • You might see their chest sinking in below their neck, as a little dip, or their ribs standing out.

The good news is that the right treatment can settle your child’s symptoms. So, book an appointment with your GP.

“Some parents I talk to feel they’re worrying too much and don’t want to bother their doctor,” says, Suzanne a child asthma nurse specialist on the Asthma UK Helpline. “But if you notice anything strange in your child’s breathing, get them seen.”

When to call 999

Watch out for your child behaving differently – are they eating, sleeping or talking less? If your child can’t get their breath, it’s always best to call 999 if you’re worried. If you’re not sure, you can always call 111 first. Remember, you know your child best.

Don’t take your child to hospital yourself, as paramedics can treat your child inside the ambulance.

More information on asthma attacks

Getting a non-urgent appointment with your GP

When you call your GP surgery to book, it’s OK to ask for an appointment as soon as possible. To explain the seriousness, you could say things like “My child isn’t breathing well.” Mention your child’s age too.

Next step: preparing for the appointment

To help your doctor diagnose your child and get the right treatment for them as quickly as possible, use our quick prep checklist. Then share that information with your GP at the appointment. You'll feel more confident knowing what to ask and you won't forget anything.