Asthma in children, signs and symptoms – What to do in the event of an asthma attack

On Tuesday night my 3 year old had an asthma attack! I didn’t even know he had asthma!

The day before the attack he was feeling under the weather, he had a cold and a slight fever but nothing too worrying.

The following morning he woke still feeling groggy and he had a cough. Nothing sent alarm bells ringing so I continued with my day. It wasn’t until around 7pm that I noticed his breathing had become fast. His temperature was a little high but I controlled it with Calpol. Half hour past and he was not improving, his breathing was faster, his tummy was moving up and down and aching him.

I managed to get him an out of hours appointment at 9pm. When we saw the doctor he immediately said we need to get him on an nebuliser. ‘does your son have asthma?’ The doctor asked. ‘Your son needs to go to hospital NOW’ I was shocked, he had never shown any asthmatic symptoms before this episode.

At the hospital the doctor said it was an asthma attack more than likely brought on by his cold. We had an overnight stay at the hospital and was discharged the following day. I’ve had to continue using the ventolin pump at home.

Looking back there were a few signs that he may have asthma for example: A night time cough and mild eczema. But what other signs or symptoms are there and what can we do in the event of an attack?


Common childhood asthma signs and symptoms include:

  • Frequent, intermittent coughing
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest congestion or tightness
  • Chest pain, particularly in younger children

Other signs and symptoms of childhood asthma include:

  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • Bouts of coughing or wheezing that get worse with a respiratory infection, such as a cold or the flu
  • Delayed recovery or bronchitis after a respiratory infection
  • Trouble breathing that may limit play or exercise
  • Fatigue, which can be caused by poor sleep

The first signs of asthma in young children may be recurrent wheezing triggered by a respiratory virus. As children grow older, asthma associated with respiratory allergies is more common.

Asthma signs and symptoms vary from child to child, and may get worse or better over time. Your child may have only one sign or symptom, such as a lingering cough or chest congestion.

It may be difficult to tell whether your child’s symptoms are caused by asthma or something else. Periodic or long-lasting wheezing and other asthma-like symptoms may be caused by infectious bronchitis or another respiratory problem.


  • Their reliever inhaler (usually blue) isn’t helping, and/or
  • They can’t talk or walk easily and/or
  • They’re breathing hard and fast and/or
  • They’re coughing or wheezing a lot and/or
  • They complain of a tummy ache and/or chest ache


These steps could save your child’s life so make sure you know them – and share them with other people who look after your child, too.

  1. Help them to sit up straight and stay calm
  2. Help them take a puff of their reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs
  3. Call 999 for an ambulance if:
  • their symptoms get worse while they’re using their inhaler
  • they don’t feel better after 10 puffs
  • you’re worried at any time, even if they haven’t yet taken 10 puffs.

4. While you wait for the ambulance, reassure your child. Repeat step 2 if the ambulance takes longer than 15 minutes.

Always call 999 immediately if you don’t have a reliever inhaler with you.

If you go to A&E, remember to take your child’s written asthma plan with you – even if it’s a photo on your phone.

Please share this post so that others know what to do if a child has an asthma attack.

For more information visit the Asthma UK website – Click HERE  

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