asthma episodes: what to do

Tips and talking points for parents to help keep everyone calm when an asthma episode occurs.

Handling an Asthma Episode

When a young child has an asthma attack, it can be quite frightening for parents and the child. We've got some tips for you to put into the practice to keep you both calm until it passes

Find Your Zen Place

The most important rule here: Don't panic. "If you're anxious, your child will pick up on it," says Carlton. Anxiety will cause your child to breathe faster, worsening her attack. If you stay calm, so will she.

Put Her In Her Comfort Zone

Keep your child as calm as possible during an episode. Let her watch a favorite DVD, read her a favorite book, or sing her a soothing song while stroking her hair or back, whatever you know will soothe and calm her.

Help her find a comfortable position as well. Sitting propped up with pillows is often easier for breathing than laying flat out on her back. If she has a favorite snuggy, only let her hold it if it is clean and allergen-free. Dust-mite ridden blankets and bed toys will only make the asthma worse.


Change the Subject

As you wait for the medication to take effect, talk about something totally unrelated and fun. Keep the conversation on topics that are happy, like a favorite holiday memory, a recent accomplishment in school, or a fun memory from vacation. Avoid telling funny stories of things that will make her laugh, because laughter can some times aggravate an asthma attack. The point is to keep her mind off her breathing as best you can.

You can use a meditation technique called visualization where you try to get your child to think of soothing things, like a taking a nice walk by a lakes, swimming in a lake, or floating in the ocean, anything that will relax and calm her.


Give It a New Spin

Don't call the attack an "attack," which is a scary word for kids; Carlton recommends substituting the word episode. If you don't like either term, maybe you and your child can come up with a phrase you both like to "name" her attacks when they occur. Kids often feel powerless during asthma episodes, so little things that help them feel in control can also help them cope with their symptoms.
After the attack, review what happened with your child to see if there's some way to handle the situation better next time. Did it take too long to find the inhaler, or was she ripping and running too soon after a cold, or did she stay too long outside playing in the cold? Whatever the case, take the time to understand what happened so that you can be better prepared the next time around.

To help your young kids prepare for an attack, give them this Yo Gabba Gabba Asthma Tool Kit, it's loaded with activities to help kids better understand and manage their asthma.

Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see Terms of Use.
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