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Asthma Attack

Definition

  • Child is having an asthma attack
  • Don't use this guideline unless the child was previously diagnosed as having asthma, asthmatic bronchitis or reactive airway disease by a physician

Main Symptom

  • A wheeze or whistling (purring) sound on breathing out is the classic symptom
  • Coughing may be the first symptom of an asthma attack

Causes (Triggers) of Asthma Attacks

Severity of an Asthma Attack

  • Mild: no Shortness of Breath (SOB) at rest, mild SOB with walking, speaks normally in sentences, can lay down flat, wheezes only heard by stethoscope (GREEN Zone: Peak Flow Rate 80-100% of baseline level or personal best)
  • Moderate: SOB at rest, speaks in phrases, prefers to sit (can't lay down flat), audible wheezing  (YELLOW Zone: Peak Flow Rate 50-80% of baseline level)
  • Severe: severe SOB at rest, speaks in single words (struggling to breathe), usually loud wheezing or sometimes minimal wheezing because of decreased air movement (RED Zone: Peak Flow Rate less than 50% of baseline level)

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If

  • No previous asthma diagnosis or use of asthma medicines, see WHEEZING

 

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is
provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use
this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer
and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 2:47:46 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

When To Call

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Severe difficulty breathing (struggling for each breath, unable to speak or cry because of difficulty breathing, making grunting noises with each breath)
  • Your child passed out or has bluish lips/tongue
  • Wheezing started suddenly after medicine, an allergic food or bee sting

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Looks like he did when hospitalized before with asthma
  • Difficulty breathing not resolved 20 minutes after neb or inhaler
  • Peak flow rate lower than 50% of baseline level (personal best) (RED Zone)
  • Peak flow rate 50-80% of baseline level after using neb or inhaler (YELLOW Zone)
  • Wheezing (heard across the room) not resolved 20 minutes after using neb or inhaler
  • Continuous (nonstop) coughing that keeps from playing or sleeping and not improved after using neb or inhaler
  • Severe chest pain
  • Asthma medicine (neb or inhaler) is needed more frequently than every 4 hours
  • Fever over 104° F (40° C) and not improved 2 hours after fever medicine
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Mild wheezing persists over 24 hours on treatment
  • Sinus pain (not just congestion)
  • Fever present for more than 3 days
  • Fever returns after gone for over 24 hours

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Don't have written asthma action plan
  • Uses an inhaler, but doesn't have a spacer
  • Missing more than 1 day of school/month for asthma
  • Asthma limits exercise or sports
  • Asthma attacks frequently awaken from sleep
  • Uses more than 1 inhaler/month
  • No asthma check-up in over 1 year

Parent Care at Home If

  • Mild asthma attack and you don't think your child needs to be seen

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 2:47:46 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Care Advice

  1. Asthma Rescue Medicine:
    • Start your child's quick relief medicine (e.g., albuterol inhaler or nebs) at the first sign of any coughing or shortness of breath (don't wait for wheezing) (Reason: Early treatment shortens the asthma attack).
    • The best "cough medicine" for a child with asthma is always the asthma medicine.
    • Follow your child's action plan for asthma attacks.
    • For albuterol inhalers, give 2 puffs separated by a few minutes, every 4 to 6 hours.
    • Caution: if the inhaler hasn't been used in over 7 days or is new, test spray it twice into the air before using it for treatment.
    • Continue the asthma rescue medicine until your child has not wheezed or coughed for 48 hours.
    • Spacer: Always use inhalers with a spacer. It will double the amount of medicine that gets to the lungs.
  2. Asthma Controller Medicine: If your child is using a controller medicine (e.g., inhaled steroids or cromolyn), continue to give it as directed.
  3. Hay Fever: For nose allergy symptoms, it's OK to give antihistamines (Reason: poor control of nasal allergies makes asthma symptoms worse).
  4. Fluids: Encourage drinking normal amounts of clear fluids (e.g., water) (Reason: keeps the lung mucus from becoming sticky).
  5. Humidifier: If the air is dry, use a humidifier (Reason: to prevent drying of the upper airway).
  6. Avoid or Remove Allergens: 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). Avoid exercise during the attack.
  7. Expected Course: If treatment is started early, most asthma attacks are quickly brought under control. All wheezing should be gone by 5 days.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Difficulty breathing occurs
    • Inhaled asthma medicine (neb or inhaler) is needed more often than every 4 hours
    • Wheezing persists over 24 hours
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms. 

To find a pediatrician, click here.

 

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 2:47:46 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Photos

How to Use a Dry Powder Inhaler

Dry powder inhalers require a different inhaling technique than regular metered dose inhalers (MDI). To use a dry powder inhaler, it is important to close your mouth tightly around the mouthpiece of the inhaler and to inhale rapidly. Here are the steps:

  • STEP 1 - Remove the cap and follow manufacturer's instructions to load a dose of medicine.
  • STEP 2 - Breathe out completely.
  • STEP 3 - Put the mouthpiece of the inhaler in the mouth.
  • STEP 4 - Breathe in quickly and deeply.
  • STEP 5 - Hold your breath for ten seconds to allow the medicine to reach deeply into your lungs.
  • If your doctor has prescribed two or more inhalations, wait 1 minute and then repeat steps 2-5.

 

Source: US Government

This work is in the public domain because it is a work of the United States federal Government.

Text and images reproduced from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 2: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.


 

How to Use a MDI

A metered dose inhaler (MDI) is a device used to deliver asthma medication directly to the lungs. In order to ensure effective administration of the medicine, the following steps should be performed.

  • STEP 1 - Remove the cap and shake the inhaler.
  • STEP 2 - Hold the inhaler about 1-2 inches in front of the mouth. Breathe out - completely.
  • STEP 3 - Press down on the inhaler to release the medicine as you start to breathe in slowly.
  • STEP 4 - Breathe in slowly for three to five seconds.
  • STEP 5 - Hold your breath for ten seconds to allow the medicine to reach deeply into your lungs.
  • If your doctor has prescribed two puffs, wait 1 minute and then repeat steps 2-5.

Source: US Government

This work is in the public domain because it is a work of the United States federal Government.

Text and images reproduced from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 2: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.

 

How to Use a MDI with Spacer

A spacer (or holding chamber) can be useful for all patients. A spacer makes it easier to correctly inhale the asthma medication out of the metered dose inhaler (MDI). A spacer is especially useful in younger children and older adults.

  • STEP 1 - Shake the inhaler and then attach it to the spacer (holding chamber).
  • STEP 2 - Breathe out completely.
  • STEP 3 - Place the mouthpiece of the spacer in your mouth.
  • STEP 4 - Press down on the inhaler. This will put one puff of the medicine in the holding chamber or spacer.
  • STEP 5 - Breathe in slowly for 5 seconds.
  • STEP 6 - Hold your breath for 10 seconds and then exhale.
  • If your doctor has prescribed two or more puffs, wait 1 minute between each puff and then repeat steps 2-6.

Source: US Government

This work is in the public domain because it is a work of the United States federal Government.

Text and images reproduced from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 2: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 2:47:46 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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