What you need to know

  • Asthma is a condition that leads to narrowing of the airways of the lungs, which can make it harder for your child to breathe.
  • Try to avoid things that may trigger your child's asthma like cigarette smoke, dust and mould.
  • Create an asthma action plan for your little one so you know what to do if they have an asthma attack.
  • If your tamariki is struggling with asthma, call PlunketLine or go to the doctor. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help your child manage their asthma.


Your child may have asthma if they: 

  • wheeze and cough with a cold, after exercise, or during the night 
  • have trouble keeping up with kids that are the same age 
  • complain of being out of breath 
  • complain of tiredness or ask you to carry them (depends on their age) when you go for a walk.

Managing your child’s asthma 

Avoid triggers

Try to avoid things that trigger your child’s asthma, like:

  • colds (viruses) 
  • weather changes  
  • house dust-mites 
  • mould 
  • pollens 
  • pets 
  • exercise 
  • emotions, such as being upset 
  • cigarette smoke.

If you can, make your child's environment smoke-free, as asthma increases in children whose parents smoke.  

Create an asthma action plan

Your plan can include: 

  • your child’s asthma triggers
  • reminders on what works to manage your child’s asthma 
  • medication list
  • step-by-step instructions on what to do if your child has an asthma attack
  • important contacts and emergency phone numbers.
Asthma action plan

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ

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New Zealand’s not-for-profit sector authority on all respiratory conditions.

Asthma attack symptoms

  • wheezing 
  • breathing faster than usual 
  • putting extra effort into breathing 
  • flaring of the nostrils 
  • sucking in of the spaces between the ribs with each breath 
  • sucking in of the spaces above the collarbone with each breath.

If your child is having an asthma attack, try to stay calm and follow the steps you’ve laid out in your asthma action plan.

When to visit a doctor  

If you think your child has asthma, take them to your doctor for a diagnosis. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help your child manage their asthma. 

Take your child to a doctor urgently if they: 

  • are breathing fast, wheezing and having to use extra effort to breathe 
  • are breathless when resting 
  • look unwell 
  • look pale and are beginning to get tired 
  • get worse after beginning to get better 
  • have trouble completing a sentence because of difficulty breathing.

If you're worried or aren’t sure what to do, call PlunketLine or speak to your Plunket nurse. 

When to call 111 

If your child's medication (inhaler) isn’t working, and they've any of the following symptoms, call 111 immediately: 

  • severe difficulty breathing 
  • too breathless to talk 
  • floppy or very tired 
  • less responsive 
  • blue lips and tongue 
  • periods of stopping breathing.