How to prevent and manage asthma attacks in children?

Asthma is a long-term lung condition in which a person’s sensitive airways react to triggers resulting in a flare-up. During a flare-up, the muscles around the airways squeeze themselves tight, causing the airways to swell and become narrow. This along with mucous build up leads to difficulty in breathing. flare-up can occur gradually over hours, days or weeks; or very quickly over minutes. A sudden or severe flare-up is commonly known as an asthma attack.

Asthma triggers

The inflamed airways show sensitivity to environmental allergens, irritants and weather conditions that may trigger an asthma attack. It is quite common for respiratory infections such as cold, flu, pneumonia, sore throats and allergic rhinitis to trigger an asthma attack in a child.

Symptoms to watch out for

While symptoms often vary based on severity of inflammation in lungs, these are some common asthma symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness
  • Tightness in chest
  • Continuous coughing

Symptoms may aggravate at nights, early mornings and during/just after physical activity. If your child’s asthma is well managed, the symptoms may occur only occasionally.

Common triggers at school

  • Environmental allergens: dust mites, cockroaches, pollen, moulds, pet dander and rodents
  • Irritants in air: bushfire smoke, pollution, dust particles, chalk dust, and strong odours from chemicals, paints, perfumes, scented soaps and petrol
  • Physical exercise and other activities that make children breathe harder, especially in cold weather conditions
  • Dry winds and cold air
  • Expressing strong emotions: yelling, crying, fear, anger and excitement

Inhaler medications for managing asthma

Preventers – They reduce inflammation in the airways, which helps to better control the frequency and severity of asthma flare-ups.

Relievers – Blue/grey relievers provide short-term relief from asthma symptoms by relaxing narrowed airway muscles. Relievers do not treat the underlying problem of airway inflammation and excess mucous production. Speak to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist for expert advice on managing your asthma if you are using reliever medication more than two days a week.

Helping your child manage asthma attacks in school

It really should be the number one thing on every parent’s back to school list for their school-aged children with asthma. You could help your child BREATHE BETTER with a spacer. At TerryWhite Chemmart, we recommend using a spacer for your child to inhale their medication. A spacer is a tube-like device that attaches to an asthma inhaler. It allows more medication to reach the lungs and makes it easier for your child to take their metered dose without having to worry about perfecting the technique.

Who should use a spacer?

Spacers can be used by adults and children with their inhalers on a routine basis. A spacer can be particularly helpful during an asthma attack when the person may be a bit stressed and find it difficult to use the inhaler by itself.

Teach your child to use the inhaler with a spacer:

  1. Shake the inhaler well.
  2. Remove cap and fit the inhaler into the back of the spacer.
  3. Ask your child to put the mouthpiece of the spacer into their mouth and form a good seal with their lips.
  4. If your child is very young, you will need to fit their spacer with a mask.
  5. Fire one puff from the inhaler canister to deliver one dose of medicine into the spacer.
  6. Ask your child to breathe normally, into and out of the spacer, four times.
  7. If a second dose has been prescribed shake the inhaler again and repeat above steps.

Real Talk

Is your child asthma ready for back to school?

Research has shown that there is a dramatic rise in the number of children visiting the hospital due to asthma flare-ups when they head back to school1. We’ve partnered with Asthma Australia to help break this cycle.

Asthma Australia have a great checklist that you can download to ensure your child is asthma ready for school available at

As an important step to help manage your childs asthma in readiness for school, TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacists can provide advice about the best use of asthma medication. We recommend using a spacer for your child to inhale their medication. A spacer is a device that allows more medication to reach the lungs and makes it easier for your child to take their prescribed dose, without having to worry about perfecting the technique.

Pharmacist Svjetlana Conn shares some tips on maintaining your child’s spacer:

  • Dismantle your spacer and wash the parts with mild detergent and warm water, once a month or after any illness.
  • Allow the parts to air dry in a vertical position. Be careful not to use a cloth to dry as it may create static causing the medication to stick to the spacer.
  • Remember to replace your spacer every 12 months.

*Participating pharmacies only. Service fees and eligibility criteria may apply.


Svjetlana Conn

TerryWhite Chemmart


Speak to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist today for a quick demonstration on using a spacer. Ask us for a FREE spacer label*.

Easy back to school tips for children with asthma

  • Label your child’s asthma devices
  • Download and activate our FREE TerryWhite Chemmart Health App to make managing your child’s asthma medication easier
  • Make an appointment to talk to the teaching and non-teaching staff at school to ensure they understand your child’s asthma symptoms and common triggers. Also talk to the school nurse to discuss the detailed emergency action plan in case of an asthma attack.
  • Ensure your child knows how to use a reliever inhaler correctly. Speak to your local TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist for trusted advice and tips on perfecting the technique.
  • Encourage your child to speak to the nearest staff member and ask for help at the sign of earliest symptoms.

Asthma FAQs

1. How can I prevent an asthma attack?
  • Know what triggers your asthma and try to avoid exposure to these triggers
  • Take your asthma medication as instructed
  • Make sure you are using your inhaler (puffer) properly
  • Get annual flu shots
  • Follow your personal written asthma plan from your GP
2. What to do in an asthma attack

Begin the 4 steps of Asthma first aid

3. What should I do if my child is having an asthma attack?

If the child has no asthma action plan but has an inhaler:

  • Sit child upright comfortably and loosen tight clothing.
  • Give one puff of quick-relief medicine from child’s inhaler, always with a spacer.
  • Ask child to take four breaths from spacer.
  • Give three more puffs, with four breaths between each.
  • Wait four minutes.
  • Prepare to call 000 if the symptoms worsen.
4. How to properly use an asthma puffer

Medicine for asthma is most commonly taken through an inhaler, which gets the medicine straight into your lungs where it is needed. There are lots of different inhalers and it is very important that you know how to use yours properly. Up to 90% of people are thought to use their inhalers incorrectly, which means the dose of medicine isn’t getting into the lungs. Use of a spacer is strongly recommended as it can help the medication reach deep into the lungs.

5. Can asthma just develop?

Asthma can start at any age and can be more of a problem when it starts in older adults, so don’t assume if you never had it as a child that it’s not possible now.

6. What are the symptoms of asthma?

A person’s asthma symptoms can vary over time – sometimes they will have no symptoms, especially when their asthma is well-controlled. Symptoms often vary from person to person, but they are most commonly:

  • breathlessness
  • wheezing
  • tight feeling in the chest
  • continuing cough

Symptoms often occur at night, early in the morning or during/just after activity. They are caused by the narrowing of the airways.

If your asthma is well controlled, you should only have occasional asthma symptoms.

Partnering with Asthma Australia for change

Asthma is a chronic illness that affects the day to day living of millions of Australians every year. TerryWhite Chemmart support Asthma Australia through donations from the sale of each spacer.

For further information and support for your child’s asthma, call Asthma Australia on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or visit

1Asthma: treatment and management, Canberra: AIHW. Accessed online:

*One per customer, while stocks last.