What’s most important now is to help your child recover fully from their asthma attack and lower the risk of another one. It’s scary to know that one in six people who get emergency treatment for an asthma attack need emergency treatment again within two weeks. But it doesn’t have to be that way – there are a few simple, practical steps you can take to help your child.
Remember – not everyone who has an asthma attack needs to go to hospital. Your child may have been successfully treated by their GP or by paramedics at home, or their asthma symptoms may have been eased when they used their reliever inhaler (usually blue).
If any of these things happened, your child may have had an asthma attack:
- They needed more puffs of their reliever inhaler than usual to help their asthma symptoms
- Their reliever inhaler didn’t help
- They couldn’t talk or walk easily
- They were finding it hard to breathe
- They coughed or wheezed a lot.
Whether or not your child ended up in hospital, they’ve had an asthma attack, which is potentially life threatening. It’s vital to take action to cut their risk of having another one.
You might find it helpful to see the asthma attack as a wake up call for their doctors and for you. It shows there needs to be an urgent asthma review and perhaps a new routine.
Take these four steps so you don’t risk looking back and wishing you’d done things differently.
Help your child to recover fully from their asthma attack and cut their risk of having another one:
1. Book an urgent asthma review
Even if your child didn’t go to hospital, they need to see their GP or asthma nurse as soon as possible to cut their risk of having another asthma attack. The guidelines doctors follow recommend getting them an urgent same-day appointment.
If your child was taken into hospital, take them to see their GP or asthma nurse within two working days after they come home. The hospital should let your GP practice know within 24 hours that your child has had emergency treatment but don’t assume this has happened or wait to be called – be proactive and book the appointment straight away.
At the appointment, your GP or asthma nurse will check your child is getting better. They will also help you and your child put steps in place to help them stay well with their asthma. For example, they’ll check your child is using their inhalers properly, so they get the maximum benefits from their medicine. Find out more about what happens at this review.
2. Make sure they keep taking their asthma medicines
Using their preventer inhaler every day exactly as prescribed is the best way to help stop another asthma attack. It will also help keep your child as free from asthma symptoms as possible. If your child has ended up in hospital, make sure their inhaler technique is checked before you take them home – many people don’t use their inhalers properly. You may find even small tweaks to your child’s inhaler technique leads to big improvements in their asthma symptoms. If you’re not already in a good routine with their medicines, now’s the time to make a plan for taking them as prescribed. For example, you could keep them on their bedside table and decide they’ll take them before they brush their teeth every morning and evening.
3. Use their asthma action plan
If your child already has a written asthma action plan, this will be updated with instructions on what medicines your child needs to take and when, and what to do if you notice their symptoms getting worse again. If your child doesn’t have an asthma action plan yet, download one and ask your child’s GP or asthma nurse to fill it in with you. Research shows people who use written asthma action plans are four times less likely to need emergency treatment for their asthma than those who don’t use them. Take a photo of it on your phone, so you have it whenever you need it. And consider forwarding it to or printing a copy out for anyone who looks after your child – their grandparents or childminder, for example. Having your child’s action plan to hand can give you great peace of mind. It can help you and your family feel confident you’ll know what to do if your child has asthma symptoms again.
4. Give your child time to recover
Everyone’s different, but it’s likely your child will feel very tired for a few days after they have had an asthma attack. Try not to worry – the Asthma UK nurses say this is normal. Let your child rest as much as they need to. They shouldn’t go back to school before they’re ready – at your child’s urgent asthma review (see below), you can talk to the GP or asthma nurse about the right time for them to return to school. Speak to the school about this too.
No matter how they are feeling and acting, doing these four things will give you peace of mind that you’re taking the important steps to help look after your child’s asthma.
This urgent review, which your child has with their GP or asthma nurse after their asthma attack, is very important. Remember – if they weren’t taken into hospital, you need to make them a same-day appointment. If your child ended up in hospital, they’ve already had emergency treatment by doctors, but they still need to see their GP or asthma nurse within two working days of coming out of hospital.
At the urgent review, your GP or asthma nurse may:
- Check how your child’s symptoms are and listen to their chest
- Consider changing your child’s medicines, or putting them on a different dose
- Check their inhaler and spacer technique.
- Fill in or update a written asthma action plan with you and your child, updating it with all the information to help you manage your child’s asthma and cut their risk of another asthma attack
- Talk through any symptoms you noticed before your child’s asthma attack, including anything that made them worse – this might help you get a clearer idea of the warning signs to look out for in future, and the things that trigger your child’s symptoms.
The appointment is for you and your child, so use our easy tips to get the most from it:
Before the review, make sure you…
- Think about anything you want to ask the GP or asthma nurse, whether it’s a question about your child’s triggers or concerns about their medicine. Ask your child to think about anything they’d like to ask or are worried about, too. Write the questions down in order of importance so you don’t forget them.
- Download a written asthma action plan, if your child doesn’t have one already. Your GP or asthma nurse will fill it in with you. If your child already has a written asthma action plan, make sure you take it with you so it can be updated.
- Remember to take your child’s medicines with you, including their inhalers and spacer, so their GP or asthma nurse can check their inhaler technique.
- Consider phoning the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 or messaging via WhatsApp on 07378 606728 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm). Chatting to our expert nurses can help you get the most from your child’s review. This may be especially helpful if you haven’t been happy with reviews in the past.
In the review, make sure you…
- Talk through any concerns you or your child have, even if you think they seem silly. You don’t want to go away worrying about something and wishing you’d asked about it. Share your worries and let your GP or asthma nurse put your mind at rest. Imagine how much more confident you’ll feel if your important questions are answered. If you do have any unanswered questions after the review, you can ask our expert nurses by calling the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 or sending a message via WhatsApp on 07378 606728 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).
- Check you’ve understood everything your GP or asthma nurse has said. Ask them to repeat anything in clearer language if you’re not sure what they mean. Remember – they want you and your child to go away with a clear understanding of how to look after your child’s asthma.
- Find out when you should think about sending your child back to school
- Ask if your child needs another appointment in the next few weeks, to see how they’re getting on.
Find out more about the easy ways to manage your child’s asthma well.
The whole family can go through a range of emotions after a child’s asthma attack – these tips can help you all cope.
Parents often tell us they feel guilty after their child has had an asthma attack. If you do, you might be going over the days running up to the asthma attack, wondering if there’s anything you could have done differently. If your child hasn’t had serious asthma symptoms before, you might be confused about why they’ve had an asthma attack now. Perhaps you thought you were doing everything possible to manage your child’s asthma so you feel frustrated or angry. All these feelings are normal, and you may experience ups and downs for a while. Find out how other parents cope.
“I tend to be very calm and orderly. It’s later when I crumble.” –Cheryl, whose son Corey has asthma.
It’s not your fault
Managing your child’s asthma well cuts their chances of having an asthma attack. “But a child can have an asthma attack for many reasons,” says Caroline, one of our Asthma UK helpline nurse specialists. “Some of the most common triggers include colds and other viruses, cold air and allergies. It’s not always possible to prevent an asthma attack.” So try not to be hard on yourself.
Focus on the present and the future
The tips on this page will help cut the chances of your child having another asthma attack – and give you the practical steps you need if it does happen again. That means you and your family can all feel confident you’re looking after your child’s asthma as best you can.
Your child may be very frightened after having an asthma attack. Reassure them and tell them that together you’re going to put some steps in place to help stop it happening again. Explain that if it does ever happen again, the doctors will be able to help them, as they did this time. Encourage them to talk about their fears – you could write down some of their worries together and talk them through with your child’s GP or asthma nurse.
Your other children may have been scared to see their sibling having an asthma attack. Explain that doing certain things can help stop it happening again and tell them they can help. Show them your child’s asthma action plan and go through it with them. They could keep a photo of it on their phone or a copy stuck to the wall in their bedroom. You can also explain how important it is for your child to take their medicine every day – their sibling can help by reminding them to take it. Involving your other children can help make managing asthma a normal part of family life.
Last updated May 2019
Next review due May 2022