At the Emergency Room

If your child's asthma flare-up ends up bringing you to the emergency room, she will first be assessed to determine how severe her illness is. She will be checked for her vital signs, which include her temperature, pulse, breathing rates, and blood pressure. A triage nurse will listen to your child's chest to determine wheezing or air movement.

Essential

In the treatment area, a peak flow meter reading should be taken to determine air flow. A quick-relief bronchodilator, such as albuterol, most likely will be administered by a metered-dose inhaler or a nebulizer. Generally, the doses will be higher and more frequent than those used at home — which could make your child somewhat jittery.

Additional oxygen may be given — either as a precaution or a response to a low reading from the device called a pulse oximeter on her finger. Sometimes the low oxygen is a response to the airways being plugged with mucus, which could lead to collapse of part of a lung.

Oral steroids (such as prednisone) may be given to reduce lung inflammation and help severe asthma symptoms within a few hours.

After these medications are given, the child will need to be observed for several hours to see how she is doing and how she responds to the medication.

If her condition is better, she will be discharged — with more albuterol to use as she needs it — and a short course of oral corticosteroids or other medications.

When she returns home, she should continue to use her regular medication. However, she should contact her health care provider about getting an appointment. An emergency room visit indicates that it might be time to re-examine her asthma action plan.

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  4. At the Emergency Room
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