Skip to content

The anatomy of an asthma attack – the experience of a parent

Johnathan Laird
Johnathan Laird

NORMAL day. It was a Monday.


Wife calls. Our son is struggling to breath. Can you come home quickly.

Phone down.


In the door, noisy breathing, crying, upset. Wheeze.

His face is so white. Dad is thinking don’t panic that’s probably the most unhelpful thing to do right now. Don’t panic. Shit, will he be ok?

Ok think. What do we do?

Blue inhaler. Multidose. Spacer.

Mum can do that.


Ambulance. Blue light.

Dad left his phone at work. Doesn’t care. Are we there yet?

Paramedic gets the nebuliser straight on. Salbutamol 2.5mg being run in. Lips a bit blue? No, they aren’t. Are they?

Oxygen Sats 90%. Temperature 39.8 degree centigrade. Respiratory rate through the roof. Breathing with his ancillary muscles. He’s struggling.

Short, quick exhausted breaths. Noisy breathing. So noisy for someone so little.

Steroids. More salbutamol.

5 minutes. 10 minutes.

15 minutes. Calmer now.

The colour begins to return to the boy’s face.

He’ll be fine. Relief. Dad knew he would be fine. Never a doubt he thinks, denying the truth to himself. Thoughts now turn to the cause. What triggered the attack? Cold weather, the household cat, dust mites? Been through all this before. Is he on the right inhaler? Is dad supervising every time? Nurse mentioned an asthma plan.


That terrified father — that was me last week.

Whether you have an interest in asthma or not, rest assured as in the story above things can change and become dangerous rapidly. Knowing what to do in an asthma attack is crucial. The image below succinctly describes what to do.

My best advice if you care for an asthmatic is to read and learn the advice on the image below. Remember, the best thing you can do for the patient throughout is remain calm and reassure constantly, because that feeling of breathlessness is terrifying especially for a child.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *