Asthma Attack Treatments 

Care Advice for Asthma Attack

1. What You Should Know About Asthma:

  • Over 10% of children have asthma.
  • Your child’s asthma can flare up at any time.
  • When you are away from your home, always take your child’s medicines with you.
  • The sooner you start treatment, the faster your child will feel better.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.

2. Asthma Quick-Relief Medicine:

  • Your child’s quick-relief (rescue) medicine is albuterol or xopenex.
  • Start it at the first sign of any wheezing, shortness of breath or hard coughing.
  • Give by inhaler with a spacer (2 puffs each time) or use a neb machine.
  • Repeat it every 4 hours if your child is having any asthma symptoms.
  • Never give it more often than 4 hours without talking with your child’s doctor.
  • Coughing. The best “cough med” for a child with asthma is always the asthma medicine. Caution: Don’t use cough suppressants. If over 6 years old, cough drops may help a tickly cough.
  • Caution: If the inhaler hasn’t been used in over 7 days, prime it. Test spray it twice into the air before using it for treatment. Also, do this if it is new.
  • Use the medicine until your child has not wheezed or coughed for 48 hours.
  • Spacer. Always use inhalers with a spacer. It will get twice the amount of medicine into the lungs.

3. Asthma Controller Medicine:

  • Your child may have been told to use a controller drug. An example is an inhaled steroid.
  • It’s for preventing attacks and must be used daily.
  • During asthma attacks, keep giving this medicine to your child as ordered.

4. Allergy Medicine for Hay Fever:

  • For signs of nasal allergies (hay fever), it’s okay to give allergy medicine. Reason: Poor control of nasal allergies makes asthma worse.

5. Fluids – Offer More:

  • Try to get your child to drink lots of fluids.
  • Goal: Keep your child well hydrated.
  • Reason: It will loosen up any phlegm in the lungs. Then it’s easier to cough up.

6. Humidifier:

  • If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier. Reason: Dry air makes coughs worse.

7. Avoid Tobacco Smoke:

  • Tobacco smoke makes asthma much worse.
  • Don’t let anyone smoke around your child.

8. Avoid or Remove Triggers:

  • Shower to remove pollens or other allergens from the body and hair.
  • Avoid known causes of asthma attacks (such as smoke or cats).
  • During attacks, reduce exercise or sports if it makes your child’s asthma worse.

9. What to Expect:

  • If treatment is started early, most asthma attacks are quickly brought under control.
  • All wheezing should be gone by 5 days.

10. Inhaler With a Spacer: How to Use

  • Step 1. Shake the inhaler well. Then attach it to the spacer (holding chamber).
  • Step 2. Breathe out completely and empty the lungs.
  • Step 3. Close the lips and teeth around the spacer mouthpiece.
  • Step 4. Press down on the inhaler. This will put one puff of the medicine in the spacer.
  • Step 5. Breathe in slowly until the lungs are full.
  • Step 6. Hold a deep breath for 10 seconds. Allow the medicine to work deep in the lungs.
  • If your doctor has ordered 2 or more puffs, wait 1 minute. Then repeat steps 1-6.

11. Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI): How to Use Without a Spacer (if you don’t have one)

  • Step 1. Shake the inhaler well.
  • Step 2. Breathe out completely and empty the lungs.
  • Step 3. Close the lips and teeth around the inhaler mouthpiece.
  • Step 4. Press down on the inhaler to release a puff. Do this just as your child starts to breathe in.
  • Step 5. Breathe in slowly until the lungs are full.
  • Step 6. Hold a deep breath for 10 seconds. Allow the medicine to work deep in the lungs.
  • If your doctor has ordered 2 or more puffs, wait 1 minute. Then repeat steps 1-6.
  • Ask your doctor for a spacer. It will help send more medicine into the lungs.
  • Patients who don’t like a spacer can be prescribed an albuterol dry powder device.

12. Home Nebulizer: How to Use:

  • A nebulizer machine changes a liquid medicine (med) into a fine mist. The fine mist can carry the med deep into the lungs. This is called a nebulizer (neb) treatment.
  • Step 1. Prepare the medicine. First, wash your hands with soap and water. For pre-mixed single dose vials, just add one vial to the neb holding cup. For multi-dose vials, you need to do the mixing. First, add the correct amount of normal saline to the neb cup. Then carefully measure and add the correct amount of medicine to the saline.
  • Step 2. Connect the nebulizer to the air compressor tubing. The air compressor is run by electricity. Portable ones run on a battery. Compressors make the jet of air that turns the medicine into a fine mist.
  • Step 3. Turn on the air compressor. It will start making the fine mist that your child needs.
  • Step 4 for an Older Child. Place the mouthpiece between your child’s teeth and seal with the lips. Ask your child to breathe slowly and deeply. Ask your child to hold a deep breath for 10 seconds once a minute.
  • Step 4 for a Younger Child. If your child refuses the mouthpiece, use a face mask. It should cover the nose and mouth. It should fit snugly.
  • Step 5. Continue the treatment until the med is gone. If the med sticks to the side of the cup, shake it a little. An average neb treatment takes 10 minutes.
  • Step 6. After each treatment, take the nebulizer apart. Rinse and clean it as directed. Reason: It can’t produce mist if it becomes clogged up.
  • Caution: Closely follow your doctor’s instructions. Use the exact amount of med your doctor ordered. Don’t give a neb treatment more often than every 4 hours.

13. Call Your Doctor If:

  • Trouble breathing occurs
  • Asthma quick-relief medicine (neb or inhaler) is needed more than every 4 hours
  • Wheezing lasts over 24 hours
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the ‘Call Your Doctor’ symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Asthma patient illustration

How to Use a Dry Powder Inhaler 

Dry powder inhalers require a different inhaling technique than regular metered dose inhalers (MDI). To use a dry powder inhaler, it is important to close your mouth tightly around the mouthpiece of the inhaler and to inhale rapidly. Here are the steps:

  • STEP 1 – Remove the cap and follow manufacturer’s instructions to load a dose of medicine.
  • STEP 2 – Breathe out completely.
  • STEP 3 – Put the mouthpiece of the inhaler in the mouth.
  • STEP 4 – Breathe in quickly and deeply.
  • STEP 5 – Hold your breath for ten seconds to allow the medicine to reach deeply into your lungs.
  • If your doctor has prescribed two or more inhalations, wait 1 minute and then repeat steps 2-5.

Asthma patient illustration

How to Use a MDI with Spacer 

spacer (or holding chamber) can be useful for all patients. A spacer makes it easier to correctly inhale the asthma medication out of the metered dose inhaler (MDI). A spacer is especially useful in younger children and older adults.

  • STEP 1 – Shake the inhaler and then attach it to the spacer (holding chamber).
  • STEP 2 – Breathe out completely.
  • STEP 3 – Place the mouthpiece of the spacer in your mouth.
  • STEP 4 – Press down on the inhaler. This will put one puff of the medicine in the holding chamber or spacer.
  • STEP 5 – Breathe in slowly for 5 seconds.
  • STEP 6 – Hold your breath for 10 seconds and then exhale.
  • If your doctor has prescribed two or more puffs, wait 1 minute between each puff and then repeat steps 2-6.

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