Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

March 21, 2017

Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

What happens during a flare-up?

Children with asthma have severe episodes or flare-ups when the air passages in their lungs become narrower and breathing becomes more difficult. Sensitive airways react to certain things, called triggers. Triggers can cause:

  • The lining of the airways (bronchial tubes) to become more inflamed and swollen

  • Tightening of the muscles that surround the airways

  • Increased mucus production

  • Decreased air movement through the lungs

Normal airway

Airway with asthma

Airway with asthma flare-up

Your child may have the following symptoms of a flare-up:

  • It may become harder to breathe. Your child may start breathing faster than usual and use accessory muscles that will make it look like the area underneath or between the ribs is sucking in or the belly is sticking out. 

  • Chest tightness.

  • Coughing.

  • Wheezing or whistling when breathing out. He or she may not have wheezing with very severe flare-ups.

  • Symptoms that wake your child or keep them from sleeping.

  • Trouble walking or talking.

Make sure you know what to do if your child's symptoms worsen. Always have his or her asthma medicines available to use in case of a flare-up. If your child does not get treatment immediately during a flare-up, he or she could stop breathing, or even die.


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Adler, Liora C., MD,Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH