Skip to Content

Asthma in Children


Asthma is a condition that causes breathing problems. Inflammation and narrowing of your child's airway prevents air from getting to his or her lungs. An asthma attack is when your child's symptoms get worse. If your child's asthma is not managed, symptoms may become chronic or life-threatening.

Normal vs Asthmatic Bronchioles


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child's peak flow numbers are in the Red Zone and do not get better after treatment.
  • Your child's lips or nails are blue or gray.
  • The skin of your child's neck and ribcage pull in with each breath.
  • Your child's nostrils are flaring with each breath.
  • Your child has trouble talking or walking because of shortness of breath.

Call your child's pediatrician if:

  • Your child's peak flow numbers are in the Yellow Zone and his or her symptoms are the same or worse after treatment.
  • Your child is breathing faster than usual.
  • Your child needs to use his or her rescue medicine more often than every 4 hours.
  • Your child's shortness of breath is so severe that he or she cannot sleep or do usual activities.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child coughs up yellow or green mucus.
  • Your child runs out of medicine before his or her next scheduled refill.
  • Your child needs more medicine than usual to control his or her symptoms.
  • Your child struggles to do his or her usual activities because of symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Medicines may be given to decrease inflammation, open your child's airway, and make breathing easier. Asthma medicine may be inhaled, taken as a pill, or injected. Your child may need any of the following:

  • A long-acting inhaler works over time to prevent attacks. It is usually taken every day. A long-acting inhaler will not help decrease symptoms during an attack.
  • A rescue inhaler works quickly during an attack.
  • Allergy shots or allergy medicine may be needed to control allergies that make symptoms worse.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow your child's Asthma Action Plan (AAP):

An AAP is a written plan to help you manage your child's asthma. It is created with your child's pediatrician. Give the AAP to all of your child's care providers. This includes your child's teachers and school nurse. An AAP contains the following information:

  • A list of what triggers your child's asthma
  • How to keep your child away from triggers
  • When and how to use a peak flow meter
  • What your child's peak numbers are for the Green, Yellow, and Red Zones
  • Symptoms to watch for and how to treat them
  • Names and doses of medicines, and when to use each medicine
  • Emergency telephone numbers and locations of emergency care
  • Instructions for when to call the doctor and when to seek immediate care

Manage your child's asthma:

  • Keep a diary of your child's asthma symptoms. This will help identify asthma triggers so you can keep your child away from them.
  • Do not smoke near your child. Do not smoke in your car or anywhere in your home. Do not let your older child smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make your child's asthma worse. Ask your child's pediatrician for information if you or your child currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your child's pediatrician before you or your child use these products.
  • Manage your child's other health conditions. This includes allergies and acid reflux. These conditions can make your child's symptoms worse.
  • Ask about vaccines your child may need. Vaccines can help prevent infections that could worsen your child's symptoms. Your child may need a yearly flu vaccine.

Follow up with your child's pediatrician as directed:

Your child will need to return to make sure the medicine is working and that his or her symptoms are being controlled. Your child may be referred to an asthma specialist. Bring a diary of your child's peak flow numbers, symptoms, and possible triggers to the follow-up appointments. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visit.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.