Children's Health and Wellness

During an Asthma Attack

What happens during an asthma attack?

Children with asthma have acute episodes when the air passages in their lungs become narrower, and breathing becomes more difficult. These problems are caused by an oversensitivity of the lungs and airways:

  • The lungs and airways overreact to certain triggers causing:

    • The lining of the airways to become inflamed and swollen

    • Tightening of the muscles that surround the airways

    • An increased production of mucus

    • Decreased air movement through the lungs

  • Breathing becomes harder and may hurt.

  • There may be coughing.

  • There may be a wheezing or whistling sound, which is typical of asthma. Wheezing occurs because of the rush of air that moves through the narrowed airways. If an attack is very severe, there may be no wheezing because so little air is able to move through the airways.

If a child does not receive treatment immediately during an asthma attack, respiratory failure may occur.

Online Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. Asthmahttp://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/allergies-asthma/pages/Asthma.asp
Online Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. Asthma Attackhttp://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/Symptom-Checker/Pages/Asthma-Attack.aspx
Online Source: American Lung Association. Asthma & Children Fact Sheethttp://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/resources/facts-and-figures/asthma-children-fact-sheet.html
Online Editor: Metzger, Geri
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 7/25/2013
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