Avoid a back to school asthma attack

Every September, there's a sharp rise in children hospitalised with their asthma. Keep your child safe this year by spotting an asthma attack before it happens

There's a big rise in the number of children rushed to hospital with their asthma at the start of the autumn term each year. Coughs and colds, mould and changing weather are all possible reasons why.

Follow these simple steps to help you and your child cope with back to school asthma symptoms.

Know how to spot an asthma attack - before it happens

Your child’s symptoms are likely to get worse a few days before an attack. Our asthma nurses say the top signs to look out for are:

  1. Puffing on their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week. 
  2. Coughing and/or wheezing at night and in the early mornings.
  3. Breathlessness – if they’re pausing for breath when talking or struggling to keep up with friends, that’s a sign.  
  4. They might say their tummy or chest hurts – get to know your child’s individual asthma signs

Know what to do if your child’s symptoms are getting worse  

  1. Give two to four puffs of their reliever inhaler, through a spacer. Space the puffs out so there are 30-60 seconds between them. Their symptoms should ease. If they don’t or their reliever inhaler isn't lasting for four hours, follow our asthma attacks advice below.
  2. Make a same-day appointment with your child's GP. If the surgery is closed, call 111 for advice.
  3. If you have any questions, call our asthma nurses for advice on 0300 222 5800 (Mon – Fri; 9am – 5pm). You can also visit our child asthma advice

If you think your child is having an asthma attack, call 999:

  1. While you wait for the ambulance, help them sit up and give a puff of their reliever inhaler every 30-60 seconds - you can give them up to 10 puffs.
  2. You can repeat step 1 every 15 minutes while you are waiting for the ambulance.

What to do next when you call an ambulance for your child

Asthma nurse, Suzanne explains what to do next if your child is having an asthma attack and you're waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Video: What to do next when you call an ambulance for your child

Asthma nurse, Suzanne explains what to do next if your child is having an asthma attack and you're waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
Transcript for ‘What to do next when you call an ambulance for your child’

0:01 If you have got somebody else in the house with you,

0:04 you can ask them to call an ambulance while you administer some more puffs of blue to your child.

0:11 So, you can give on this occasion up to ten puffs of the blue inhaler and again through the spacer,

0:18 one puff at a time, leaving 30 to 60 seconds between each puff.

0:24 In the meantime, if you’re really not quite sure what to do and which direction to go in,

0:30 you can call us here at Asthma UK and speak to one of the nurses on the Helpline.

0:35 Or, if it’s out of hours, you can call 111, and they are available 24 hours, seven days a week.

0:44 If you have got to the stage where you’ve called the ambulance and you’re waiting for the ambulance,

0:49 and you’ve done your ten puffs of blue for your child,

0:52 and you’re still not quite happy with how your child’s looking, you can repeat ten puffs in the same way as I mentioned before.

1:01 Or, alternatively, if you’ve still got the 999 call handler on the telephone, they should give you some further advice as to what to do.

Helping your child stay well through September and beyond

You can't control whether your child gets a cold, or if the changing weather affects their asthma, but there's actions you can take to build up your child's protection against asthma attacks:  

  1. Make an appointment with your GP to make sure your child’s written asthma action plan is up to date.
  2. Download our Asthma School Card, fill it out with your GP and give it to the school.
  3. Visit your child’s GP so they can check your child’s asthma and adjust their prescription to make sure your child is getting the most from their medicine.
  4. Get a fresh, full, reliever inhaler (usually blue) and give it to your child’s school.
  5. Contact our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Mon – Fri; 9am – 5pm) to speak to one of our friendly asthma nurses about things like how to manage your child’s asthma and how to talk to school about their asthma.
  6. Visit our online community to get support from other parents whose children have asthma.

With the right asthma care, your child will be able to cope with coughs and colds, sleep easily and stay healthy – so you don’t have to worry.