Asthma attack can be life threatening

Asthma is becoming more common both in children and adults, you would have thought in this day and age that we would have eradicated this terrible potential life threating condition.

In 2017 over 77124 people went to their A&E department with this condition and when 1484 people died because of an asthma attack, these statistics are absolutely eye-watering.

Let’s take a quick look at what Asthma is?

If any of you have ever witnessed an Asthma attack it is scary when an attack happens the airways go into spasm and this causes the chest to tighten and if this is not scary enough the airways become inflamed and the body’s defences start producing phlegm and this causes the person to have severe breathing problems.

This is a frightening condition to witness in both an adult and a child, so what should YOU be looking for and more importantly would YOU recognise the symptoms if they were presented to you?

Adults tend to know what triggers an attack of Asthma and are usually well prepared when it does happen, doesn’t mean it is not as scary because it is, a good friend of mine suffers quite badly with the condition and his last attack really was scary, but we managed it really well, so let’s look at Asthma attacks in children.

How do YOU recognise a child is having an Asthma attack?

  • They may have a persistent cough especially whilst at rest.
  • A wheezing sound coming from the chest is a pretty good indicator too.
  • Difficulty in breathing is a good primary indicator and this is more noticeable when the child is using all muscles of the upper body to trying to breathe, quite common to see shoulders raising up and down.
  • Talking or being unable to complete sentences is also a good indicator, quite often some children become noticeably quieter than normal too.
  • Children often claim their chest feels tight, and very young children often express this as a tummy ache.

This is pretty scary stuff for any sufferer let alone anyone who is with them too, if you are at all concerned phone the Ambulance services immediately, you can always cancel the ambulance if the situation gets much better, always best in my book to edge on the side of caution and call them.

Here are some helpful indicators for when to call the Ambulance service?

  • If the child appears exhausted.
  • Blue / White tinge around lips.
  • The child is turning blue.
  • The child has collapsed.
  • If YOU are worried at any time call 999 for the ambulance

What can YOU do if a child has an asthma attack?

  • Keep calm and giving reassurance to the child really helps and you will be surprised how many people make this even worse by going into panic mode, and surprisingly enough it is mostly their parents that do.
  • Encourage the child to sit upright or they can straddle a dining room chair if one is available, and then they can use the back of the chair for support.
  • (TOP TIP) you could also get the child to sit on the floor using a wall as support and by raising the knees slightly so they resemble a lazy W, this is a great position and a comfortable one too, you can always put a cushion under the knees for added comfort.
  • Hand the child their asthma puffer with the spacer (if available) and help them to take 2 puffs of Salbutamol.
  • If no improvement is noticed, then get the child to continue to take 2 more puffs every 2 minutes up to a maximum of 10 puffs.
  • Improvement should be noticed quite quickly once the Salbutamol as started working, keep reassuring the child and remain calm yourself after such a scary incident for you both.

Children tend to feel better after a couple of puffs and they still need to be kept calm and reassured for a while after the asthma attack, if all is well they can continue with activities.

Get first aid trained.

We teach first aiders how to provide assistance and treatment to adults and children on our Paediatric first aid, Emergency first aid at Work, and First aid at work courses, these cover asthma attacks in adults and children. These courses are also available as an open course option from our centre in Rugby.


Asthma is a very common condition that can become life threatening really quickly if not dealt with, many sufferers live a normal life with this condition and with self-medication successfully manage it too. An Asthma attack can happen anywhere so if you witness an attack remember reassurance and a calming nature will help the suffer more than you think.

You may find these links helpful

Asthma UK: 

Asthma inhalers in schools