Common childhood illnesses & well-being
A guide for parents and carers
Wheezing & breathing difficulties


Know the symptoms

Asthma is a common long-term condition that can be well controlled in most children. The severity of asthma symptoms varies between children, from very mild to more severe. Parents learn how to be prepared and how to recognise symptoms and deal with them.

Asthma affects the airways and makes it difficult to breathe and causes wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and can make the chest feel tight.

A sudden, severe onset of symptoms is known as an asthma attack. Asthma attacks can sometimes be managed at home but may require hospital treatment. They are occasionally life threatening.

Triggers can include exercise (especially in cold weather), an allergy with dust mites, animal fur, grass and tree pollen or exposure to air pollution, especially tobacco smoke or a cold virus. Asthma often runs in families.

Call 999 to seek immediate medical assistance if your child has severe symptoms of asthma.


GP says

Your GP will normally be able to diagnose asthma by asking about your child’s symptoms, examining their chest and listening to their breathing. They will want to know about your child’s medical history and whether there is a history of allergic conditions in your family. They will also want to know about when and where it happened, because this could help to identify the possible trigger(s) of their asthma. If your child has asthma ask your GP for an action plan for when they are unwell.

Symptoms of severe asthma include:

  • The symptoms will get worse quickly.

  • Difficulty breathing and talking.

  • A racing pulse.

  • Lips and/or fingernails may turn blue.

  • The skin around the chest and neck may tighten.

  • The nostrils may flare as your child tries to breathe.

Call 999 to seek immediate medical assistance if your child has severe symptoms of asthma.


If you are a smoker, never smoke around your children.


There is no cure for asthma and the aim of treatment is to get your child’s asthma under control and keep it that way.


If you notice your child's symptoms are getting worse, do not ignore them. Contact your GP or Asthma Clinic.