Topic Overview

It can be difficult to know whether your child is having a mild, moderate, or severe asthma attack. The following chart may help you. Talk with a doctor if you are unable to tell how severe your child's symptoms are.

Gauging the severity of your child's asthma attack

Factor

Mild attack

Moderate attack

Severe attack


Peak expiratory flow


80% to 100% of personal best


50% to 79% of personal best


Less than 50% of personal best


Breathing


Normal or slightly faster


Faster than normal


Rapid, and the child may appear preoccupied with breathing; may want to sit upright to help breathing


Breath


Mild or no shortness of breath; can speak in full sentences


Short of breath; can speak in short phrases or parts of sentences


Very short of breath; speaks in single words or short phrases


Chest


Does not or slightly uses chest muscles to breathe


Uses chest and neck muscles to breathe. The skin between, under, and above the ribs collapses inward with each breath.


Uses chest and neck muscles to breathe and may open nostrils wide; may clutch at the chest


Skin


Normal skin colour


Pale skin colour


Very pale or bluish skin colour; may sweat more than normal


Wheezing


Wheezes while breathing out


Wheezes while breathing in and out


Does not wheeze while breathing. This indicates little or no air in the airways.


Alertness


Normally alert


Normally alert


Not as alert as usual and may appear anxious

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lora J. Stewart, MD - Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics

Current as ofDecember 6, 2017