Asthma in Children 0 to 4 Years: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Asthma makes it hard for your child to breathe. During an asthma attack, the airways swell and narrow. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening, but you can usually prevent them. Controlling asthma and treating symptoms before they get bad can help your child avoid bad attacks. You may also avoid future trips to the doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Action plan

  • Make and follow an asthma action plan. It lists the medicines your child takes every day and will show you what to do if your child has an attack.
  • Work with a doctor to make a plan if your child does not have one. Make treatment part of daily life.
  • Tell any caregivers that your child has asthma. Give them a copy of the action plan. They can help during an attack.


  • Your child may take an inhaled corticosteroid every day. It keeps the airways from swelling. Do not use this daily medicine to treat an attack. It does not work fast enough.
  • Your child will take quick-relief medicine for an asthma attack. This is usually inhaled salbutamol. It relaxes the airways to help your child breathe.
  • If your doctor prescribed oral corticosteroids for your child to use during an attack, give them to your child as directed. They may take hours to work, but they may shorten the attack and help your child breathe better.

Keep your child away from triggers

  • Try to learn what triggers your child's asthma attacks, and avoid the triggers when you can. Common triggers include colds, smoke, air pollution, pollen, mould, pets, cockroaches, stress, and cold air.
  • If tests show that dust is a trigger for your child's asthma, try to control house dust.
  • Talk to your child's doctor about whether to have your child tested for allergies.

Other care

  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids.
  • Have your child get a pneumococcal vaccine and an annual influenza (flu) vaccine, if your doctor recommends them.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Signs may include the chest sinking in, using belly muscles to breathe, or nostrils flaring while your child is struggling to breathe.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has an asthma attack and does not get better after you use the action plan.
  • Your child coughs up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus (sputum).

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child's wheezing and coughing get worse.
  • Your child needs quick-relief medicine on more than 2 days a week (unless it is just for exercise).
  • Your child has any new symptoms, such as a fever.

Where can you learn more?

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