Preventing asthma attacks

Asthma UK share important information on preventing asthma attacks in your household.


It is important that you are aware of what triggers your child’s asthma so that you can avoid these triggers, and that you know their symptoms so you can identify if their asthma is getting worse.

The following signs could mean your child’s asthma is getting worse:

  • Wheezing and coughing first thing in the morning.
  • Increased wheezing and coughing after exercise, or doing less exercise.
  • Waking at night with a cough or wheeze.
  • If their reliever inhaler is not relieving their symptoms for up to three to four hours.
  • Needing more and more reliever medicine with less and less effect.

You should agree a written personal asthma action plan with your doctor or nurse so that you know what to do if any of these happen. This plan should be completed by your child’s doctor or asthma nurse, in discussion with you. This personal asthma action plan will contain the information you need to keep control of your child’s asthma, including details about their asthma medicines, how to tell when their symptoms are getting worse and what you should do about it. It also contains emergency information on what to do if they have an asthma attack.


There are some excellent treatments available, which will help your child get their asthma under control. There are two main types of asthma medicines. We call them relievers and preventers and they work in different ways.

  • Reliever inhalers help to relieve asthma symptoms when they happen.
  • Preventer inhalers help to protect the airways and reduce the chance of getting asthma symptoms.

Reliever inhalers

Everyone with asthma should have a reliever inhaler. Relievers are medicines that children can take immediately when asthma symptoms appear. They quickly relax the muscles surrounding the narrowed airways. This allows the airways to open wider, making it easier to breathe again. However, relievers do not reduce the swelling in the airways.

Preventer inhalers

Preventers protect the lining of the airways. They help to calm down the swelling in the airways and stop them from being so sensitive. This means that your child is less likely to react badly when they come across an asthma trigger. Preventers reduce the risk of severe attacks. Their protective effect builds up over a period of time, so they need to be taken every day, usually morning and evening, even if your child is feeling well.

What is a spacer?

A spacer is a large plastic or metal container, at one end there is a mouthpiece and at the other a hole for the aerosol inhaler to fit in. If your child is under the age of three, or unable to use a mouthpiece, a face mask will also be needed.

Asthma checklist

  1. My child has a written personal asthma action plan.
  2. I know that my child understands how their inhalers work and which to take at different times.
  3. My child knows how to use their inhaler correctly and I/my child feels confident about it.
  4. I know how to recognise when my child’s asthma is getting worse and have started to monitor when this happens to help identify their triggers.
  5. I know what steps to take in an asthma attack.
  6. I know how often my child should see their doctor or nurse about their asthma.

If you have answered no to any of the above questions, discuss them with your child’s doctor or nurse at their next appointment. For further information please visit or contact the Asthma UK Adviceline on 0800 121 62 44.

Where now?

Child Asthma Guide DownloadDownload how to spot asthma in a child guide

Photography: Michael Bentley @Flickr 

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