Asthma attacks are damn scary..

Asthma attack can be life threatening

Asthma is becoming more common in both children and adults; you would think that by now, we would have eradicated this terrible, potentially fatal condition.

In 2017, more than 77124 people visited their A&E department with this condition, and 1484 people died as a result of an asthma attack, making these figures absolutely shocking.

No statistics were taken in the UK during the COVID pandemic since the pandemic, but devolved governments in the UK have noted an upward increase in admissions.

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

If you have ever witnessed an asthma attack, you know how frightening it is. When an attack occurs, the airways spasm, causing the chest to tighten. If that is not frightening enough, the airways become inflamed, and the body’s defences begin producing phlegm, causing the person to have severe breathing problems.

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

Adults generally understand what triggers an asthma attack and are usually well prepared when one occurs; however, this does not mean that it is any less frightening; a good friend of mine suffers from the condition and his most recent attack was terrifying, but we handled it admirably, so let us now look at asthma attacks in children.

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

  • They may have a persistent cough, particularly while at rest.
  • A wheezing sound coming from the chest is a pretty good indicator too.
  • Difficulty breathing is a good primary indicator, and it is more noticeable when the child is using all of the upper body muscles to breathe; shoulders are frequently raised up and down.
  • Talking or being unable to complete sentences is also a good indicator; many children become noticeably quieter than usual.
  • 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. If you are at all concerned, call the ambulance services right away. You can always cancel the ambulance if the situation improves significantly. It is always best to err 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 reassure the child; you would be surprised how many people exacerbate the situation by panicking, and it is usually their parents.
  • 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 with a wall as support and raise the knees slightly to resemble a lazy W; this is a great and comfortable position, and you can always place a cushion under the knees for extra comfort.
  • Hand the child their asthma puffer with spacer (if available) and assist them in taking two puffs of Salbutamol.
  • If no improvement is observed, instruct the child to continue taking 2 more puffs every 2 minutes, up to a maximum of 10 puffs.
  • Once the Salbutamol begins to work, improvement should be noticeable fairly quickly. Continue to reassure the child and remain calm yourself after such a frightening incident for both of you.

Children usually feel better after a couple of puffs, but they still need to be kept calm and reassured for a while after an asthma attack; if everything is fine, they can resume their activities.

Get first aid trained.

Our Paediatric first aid and First Aid at Work courses teach first aiders how to provide treatment for asthma attacks in adults and children. These courses can also be delivered on company sites.


Asthma is a very common condition that can quickly become life-threatening if not treated; however, many sufferers live a normal life with this condition and successfully manage it through self-medication.

An asthma attack can occur anywhere, so if you witness one, remember that reassurance and a calm demeanour will help the sufferer more than you realise.

You might find these links helpful.

Asthma + Lung UK

Asthma inhalers in schools

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