One of the main goals of parents whose kids have asthma is avoiding trips to the emergency room (ER) for breathing problems. It’s not surprising considering uncontrolled asthma sends 1 out of 3 children with asthma to the ER every year, according to the Pediatric Asthma Initiative.
If you and your child take asthma seriously and work to manage it, you can lessen the chances that your child will need to go to the ER. Well-managed asthma is rarely life threatening.
“ER visits can be avoided by kids taking their controller asthma medications daily as prescribed,” said Tracy Rife, asthma and Easy Breathing program coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Also, kids should start their albuterol or quick-relief medication at the first sign of illness.”
To help keep symptoms under control, it’s important to monitor your child’s asthma using the written asthma action plan your doctor helped you create. This plan outlines day-to-day treatment, symptoms to watch for, and step-by-step instructions to follow during a flare-up.
Your asthma action plan can help your child avoid flare-ups in the first place with these 3 tips:
- Avoid triggers: The doctor can help you identify the triggers that might cause asthma flare-ups. Common asthma triggers include tobacco smoke, animals, dust mites, mold, pollen, perfumes, aspirin, extreme heat, cold air, exercise and respiratory infections.
- Take long-term controller medications: Your child should take long-term controller medicines as prescribed by the doctor, even when they’re feeling fine. Skipping doses can cause the lungs to become more inflamed, which can lead to a decrease in lung function. It also increases the risk of more frequent and severe flare-ups.
- Keep quick-relief medicines handy: Many kids go to the ER simply because they didn’t have their quick-relief medicines available. Your child should have quick-relief medicine handy at all times. This includes making sure to keep the medicines at school with the nurse, at sporting events and while traveling.
“It’s also important to communicate with your child’s doctor at the earliest sign of a flare-up,” said Rife. “Together, you can help prevent your child’s symptoms from getting worse, and perhaps make a trip to the doctor’s office instead of to the ER.”
Signs your child should go to the ER
However, there are times when going to the ER is the right choice.
You’ll be better prepared to make that decision if you discuss it with your doctor before your child has a severe flare-up. The doctor’s instructions should be included in the asthma action plan and will list specific symptoms that are your cue to go to the ER.
As you manage your child’s asthma, pay attention to what happens before a flare-up so that you know the early warning signs. These signs might not mean that a flare-up definitely will happen, but they can help you to plan ahead.
If your child experiences any of the following symptoms, see your doctor immediately, go to the ER or call an ambulance.
- Your child is having constant coughing or wheezing.
- Your child uses quick-relief medicines closer than every 4 hours, or symptoms don’t go away after 5 or 10 minutes or return again quickly.
- There are changes in your child’s color, like bluish or gray lips and fingernails.
- Your child is having trouble talking.
- The areas below the ribs, between the ribs and in the neck visibly pull in during inhalation (called retractions).
“An asthma flare-up normally does not get better if you give it time,” said Rife. “In fact, it could get worse. If your child’s rescue medicine isn’t relieving symptoms of the asthma flare-up or if it seems to be getting worse, it is important to seek emergency care immediately.”