Many children have asthma attacks in winter due to viral infections, such as head colds and flu. Do you have a plan for treating these episodes?
Acute asthma flare-ups cause wheeze, cough and difficulty breathing, especially at night. Increasing use of the blue reliever puffer can be a warning sign.
Ask your GP for specific instructions for treating these episodes in your child and whether a written ‘asthma action plan’ may be helpful. The following guidelines are from the National Asthma Council.
Use a spacer
It is best to use a spacer during attacks. A spacer is a clear plastic tube with a mouthpiece at one end and an opening for a puffer at the other. Children under 3 or 4 years use a small volume spacer (150ml) with a face mask. Older children can use a large volume spacer (750ml).
Use the blue reliever inhaler
Give 4 puffs of quick-acting reliever. Use 1 puff at a time into the spacer with 4 breaths from the spacer after each puff.
If a spacer is not available, use 4 puffs from the child’s normal inhaler. Give 1 puff, hold the breath for 4 seconds and then take 4 normal breaths. Repeat 4 times.
If there is still little or no improvement after the first 4 puffs, have another 4 puffs. If there is still no progress, call an ambulance immediately (dial 000). Give 4 puffs every 4 minutes until it arrives.
Call for help also if there is severe breathing difficulty, if the condition worsens despite treatment or if you are worried at any time.
Continue the preventer inhaler
Children taking preventive medication should generally continue the same dose.
Cortisone for more severe episodes
For more severe attacks your doctor may prescribe a short course (up to 5 days) of cortisone (steroid) medicine by mouth. This is usually very effective and is generally free of significant side effects.