Recognizing and Managing Worsening Asthma and Asthma Emergencies

It is difficult to predict when asthma symptoms will worsen and an asthma emergency (attack or flare-up) will occur.

It is an asthma emergency if any of the following symptoms occur:  

  • breathing is difficult/laboured and fast  
  • inability to speak in full sentences (can speak only a few words without needing to take another breath)  
  • lips or nail beds are blue or grey  
  • skin on neck or chest is sucked in with each breath

When a child’s/youth’s asthma is worsening and an asthma emergency is occurring, the following actions are necessary:  

  • Administer/use the quick-acting reliever medication and repeat if symptoms do not improve or are not relieved. 
  • Follow the dosing recommendations provided to you by the parent(s)/guardian(s) and health care provider as outlined in the Asthma Management Plan form. 
  • In general, two puffs of the reliever are taken, with each puff separated by 30 seconds. Asthma symptoms should be relieved within 15 minutes of using the reliever inhaler.

Additional Resources

The What to do in the event of an Asthma Attack poster outlines how to determine the severity of the asthma attack or flare-up and the steps to take. 

The Signs of Worsening Asthma video provides information on managing worsening asthma symptoms.