22 July 2024

Asthma attack symptoms

Suggestion for implementing the strategy ‘Recognising and responding to an asthma attack’

On this page:

On this page:

Current page section: Asthma attack symptoms

Go to top of current page: Asthma attack symptoms

Show list of page sections

What asthma looks like

What asthma looks like

Asthma can be easily managed with the right treatment, but it can be life-threatening.

Recognise the symptoms and respond quickly.

Signs of asthma

Signs of asthma

Asthma symptoms are caused by the narrowing of the airways. 

Symptoms vary over time and from person to person.

Common symptoms are:

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

Symptoms often occur at night, early in the morning, during, or just after activity, or from exposure to triggers such as stress, dust, chemicals, colds and flu, pollen, or tobacco smoke.

Source: Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (opens in a new tab/window)

Signs of an asthma emergency

Signs of an asthma emergency

Look for these signs of a serious episode:

  • the child’s reliever medication isn’t helping
  • they’re finding it hard to breathe
  • they’re breathing hard and fast
  • they’re finding it hard to speak
  • they’re sucking in around their ribs/throat
  • they're looking pale or blue.

Source: Asthma + Respiratory Foundation NZ (opens in a new tab/window)

Use asthma action plans

Use asthma action plans

When responding to an asthma attack always follow a child or young person's asthma action plan.

An asthma action plan supports you to:

  • know what medicines to administer and when 
  • know a child or young person’s possible triggers
  • recognise early symptoms or flare-ups and what to do if they happen
  • know how to manage an asthma attack
  • know when to get emergency care.

A child or young person may be identified as having asthma but may not come with an asthma action plan.

Collect all the necessary information. Brief all staff about triggers, signs, and preventative measures to ensure the student is safe.


Source: Kids Health (opens in a new tab/window)

Useful resources

Useful resources


Breathing and asthma

Read time: 1 min

A fact sheet explaining how breathing may be effected and some simple steps to take to control breathing.

Publisher: Asthma + Respiratory Foundation, NZ

Visit website


Asthma emergency action plan for children 5 years of age and under.

A pamphlet with information on recognising mild, moderate, and severe asthma symptoms.

Publisher: Asthma + Respiratory Foundation, NZ

Download PDF

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Recognise and respond to an asthma attack ”:

Return to the guide “Asthma and learning”