What Are the Signs of an Asthma Attack?

There are numerous children in the U.S. who have asthma, which is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by the inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Sometimes, the symptoms flare up in an asthma attack. Emergency pediatricians recommend that parents know the potential signs of an asthma attack, and follow the steps outlined in the emergency plan provided by the child's usual pediatrician.

Call 911 if these symptoms develop.

If you think your child is suffering any sort of life-threatening medical emergency, you should call 911 without delay, instead of trying to get your child to an ER or urgent care center by yourself. Find a phone immediately if your child:

  • Has lost consciousness
  • Has to struggle for each breath
  • Can barely cry or speak
  • Has a bluish tint to the face or lips when not coughing
  • Develops wheezing and other symptoms similar to a life-threatening attack in the past
  • Begins wheezing suddenly after taking a new medicine, trying a new food, or getting stung by a bee

If you suspect your child is in imminent danger, even if you aren't quite sure, it's best to call 911—just in case.

Get emergency pediatric care if these symptoms develop.

Your child needs to see an emergency pediatrician if he or she acts or looks very sick, requires an inhaler or asthma medicine nebulizer more frequently than every four hours, or has a peak flow rate that is 50% to 80% of the normal rate after using a nebulizer. Additionally, your child needs medical attention if he or she develops the following:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Each breath causes the ribs to visibly pull in
  • Wheezing persists 20 minutes after using an inhaler or nebulizer

Call the doctor within 24 hours if these symptoms develop.

If you think your child should be evaluated, but don't think the situation is urgent, call your child's usual pediatrician within 24 hours. Additionally, call the office if you notice any of the following medical problems associated with asthma:

  • Mild wheezing persists over 24 hours, despite use of medicines
  • Fever goes away, but then returns after 24 hours
  • Fever persists longer than three days

Although asthma doesn't cause a fever, being ill with a respiratory infection can aggravate asthma symptoms.

Emergency pediatricians in the DFW area are available at the four locations of Pediatrics After Hours. Asthma is one of the many urgent medical issues we can treat at our pediatric urgent care locations. No appointment is necessary, but you can reach us at (214) 363-7242.

Categories: Asthma


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