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What to do if your child has an asthma attack

Asthma can be tough.
Asthma can be tough.

Many children with special needs also have the chronic disease of asthma. Thanks to new medications and the dissemination of information about the disease, asthma can be controlled quite well in most people.

However, when your child’s asthma symptoms suddenly get worse, you must be ready. You should have in place an asthma care plan. This is a detailed plan you work out with your child’s doctor to know exactly what to do when this situation arises. Often, when your child starts to have more severe symptoms, you are not in a position to think clearly. You should have readily available written instructions on what to do.

Generally, you should have your child sit up and try to keep him calm. You should give him the relief or rescue medication or medications your doctor has prescribed. Usually you will use these medications in the child’s nebulizer or in a spray with a spacer appliance. Make sure you know ahead of time which are relief medications (such as Ventolin or Proventil) and which are maintenance medications (such as Singulair or Flovent). In an acute flare-up, the maintenance medications will not give your child the immediate help he needs.

Within a short time of administering the rescue medications, you should see an improvement in your child’s breathing. If you do not, then it is time to take further actions. If you observe any of the following, you should get your child to a health care provider right away:

• Continuous coughing

• Wheezing while taking breaths in and out

• Shortness of breath

• Retractions (the child’s skin will pull in as he is breathing)

• Difficulty speaking

• Pale appearance

• Blue fingernails and/or lips

Asthma is a manageable disease, but you have to be prepared for a sudden change. When your child’s asthma is properly managed, he should not have the symptoms of asthma. If you know how to identify an asthma attack, and if you if you know what to do, your child should be able to avoid most complications.


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