Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.
Asthma in Children: Knowing How Bad an Attack Is
It can be hard to know if your child is having a mild, moderate, or severe asthma attack. The following chart may help you. Talk with a doctor if you can't tell how bad your child's symptoms are.
In most cases, you can take care of your child's symptoms at home by looking at your child's asthma action plan. The plan tells you what symptoms to watch for, which medicine your child needs to use, and when to call a doctor or seek emergency treatment.
80% to 100% of personal best
50% to 79% of personal best
Less than 50% of personal best
Normal or slightly faster
Faster than normal
Rapid, and your child may appear preoccupied with breathing. He or she may want to sit upright to help with breathing.
Mild or no shortness of breath; can speak in full sentences
Short of breath; can speak in short phrases or parts of sentences
Very short of breath; speaks in single words or short phrases
Does not use or slightly uses chest muscles to breathe
Uses chest and neck muscles to breathe. The skin between, under, and above the ribs collapses inward with each breath.
Uses chest and neck muscles to breathe and may open nostrils wide; may clutch at the chest
Normal skin color
Pale skin color
Very pale or bluish skin color; may sweat more than normal
Wheezes while breathing out
Wheezes while breathing in and out
Does not wheeze while breathing. This means there may be little or no air in the airways.
Not as alert as usual and may appear anxious
It is important to treat your child's asthma attacks quickly. If your child does not improve soon after treating an attack, talk with a doctor.
- During attacks, stay calm and soothe your child. This may help your child relax and breathe more easily.
- Don't underestimate or overestimate how bad your child's asthma is. It is often hard to know how much breathing difficulty a baby or small child is having. Seek medical care early for babies and small children who have asthma symptoms.
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Lora J. Stewart MD - Allergy and Immunology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.