Last updated: Aug 01, 2009

When the symptoms of asthma—wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath—suddenly become worse, it is known as an asthma attack.


Exposure to dust, pet dander, cold air, pollution, exhaust, and secondhand smoke can all trigger asthma attacks. Attacks range in intensity from mild to severe; in some cases, a child may require immediate medical attention.

Whether—and when—you should call a doctor or 911 depends on the severity of the symptoms and whether your child responds to medication. If your child has an asthma action plan, a document that outlines a plan for managing asthma attacks, you should seek medical attention if your childs symptoms are in the red zone.