Current Environment:

Asthma Attack

Symptoms of an Asthma Attack include wheezing, cough, chest tightness, and trouble breathing. Wheezing is the classic symptom. It may sound like a high-pitched whistling or purring sound. It is easiest to hear when your child is breathing out. The sooner you start treatment, the faster your child will feel better.

Symptom Management

Asthma Quick-Relief (Rescue) Medicine:

  • Your child’s quick-relief medicine is albuterol or Xopenex.
  • Start it at the first sign of any wheezing, shortness of breath, tight breathing, or hard coughing.
  • Refer to your child’s asthma action plan.
  • You may administer either a routine inhaler treatment (2 puffs) or a nebulizer treatment. Wait 1 minute between each puff. Repeat this every 4 hours as needed while your child is having asthma symptoms.
  • Never give it more often than 4 hours without talking to your child’s doctor.

Note: If the inhaler hasn’t been used in over 7 days or is new, test spray twice into the air before using it for treatment.

Asthma Controller Medicine:

  • If your child is using a controller medicine (e.g., inhaled steroids or Singulair by mouth), continue to give it as directed.
  • During an attack, always give the rescue medicine (e.g., albuterol) first.

Cough Treatment:

  • The best cough medicine for a child with asthma is usually the child’s asthma medicine.
  • Even if coughing is the only symptom, use the albuterol nebulizer or inhaler.
  • In addition to medication, you can use honey (or corn syrup) 2-5 mL for children over 1 year old. Children over 6 years old may use cough drops.

Note: Don’t use cough suppressants such as DM in children with asthma.

Humidifier: If the air is dry, use a humidifier to prevent drying of the upper airway.

Avoid Tobacco Smoke: Tobacco smoke makes asthma much worse. Don’t let anyone smoke around your child.

Avoid Triggers: Give a shower to remove pollens, animal dander, or other allergens from the body and hair. Avoid known triggers of asthma attacks (e.g., tobacco smoke, feather pillows). Also, temporarily reduce exercise or sports if they make the asthma attack worse.

Expected Course

If treatment is started early, most asthma attacks are quickly brought under control. All wheezing should be gone by 3 days.

When to Call the Office

  • Difficulty breathing occurs.
  • Wheezing persists over 24 hours.
  • Mild asthma attack lasts over 3 days.
  • Your child becomes worse.


©1994-2022 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines, LLC.

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.