Asthma Warning Signs

Download the Asthma Warning Signs – What You Need to Know PDF.

Asthma warning signs are the symptoms you feel when your airways are narrowing and your body is receiving less oxygen. Asthma warning signs are different for everyone. It is important to know your warning signs so you can take the right steps to stop the asthma episode from getting worse. Your asthma warning signs and how to respond to them are included in your Asthma Action Plan.

    LEVEL 1

Early Warning Signs

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Watery eyes
  • Stomachache

How to Respond

  • Move away from any triggers
  • Take your quick-relief medication
  • Monitor your warning signs


    LEVEL 2

More Serious Warning Signs

  • Medications are not working or do not last
  • Increase in coughing or chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Inability to do normal activities

How to Respond

  • Take the same steps as Level 1: move away from triggers, take quick-relief medication and monitor your warning signs
  • If signs get worse or are not better within 15 minutes of using medication, follow your Asthma Action Plan and call 911


    LEVEL 3

Severe Warning Signs

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Difficulty walking or talking
  • Skin sucking in at ribs and neck
  • Paling, blue or gray lips and nail beds

How to Respond

  • Call 911! Any ONE of these symptoms needs immediate medical help
  • If you have not already, take your quick-relief medication

Preparándose para la Escuela

Descargar Preparándose para la Escuela – Lo Que Usted Necesita Saber PDF o en inglés Preparing for School with Asthma – What You Need to Know PDF,


Es importante prepararse con tiempo para la escuela, en especial si su hijo padece de una enfermedad crónica como el asma. En Illinois, todos aquellos niños que padecen de asma y que pueden administrarse sus medicamentos sin ayuda, tienen permitido llevar consigo en todo momento, su medicamento de alivio.

Es importante dejar que sus niños comiencen a cuidar de su asma ellos mismos al menos 6 meses antes de iniciar el kindergarten o la escuela. Esto le permitirá saber si su hijo está usando sus medicamentos correctamente antes de que comience la escuela. Seguramente cometerá errores pero es mejor que estos sucedan cuando usted esté ahí para corregirlos.

A continuación se presentan algunos consejos que harán esta transición más fácil para ambos.

  • Comience a enseñar a sus hijos a reconocer signos y síntomas de su asma.
  • Enséñeles como usar su medicamento de alivio con un espaciador.
  • Enséñeles como usar un medidor de flujo máximo (del inglés peak flow meter).
  • Asegúrese que comprendan la importancia de llevar su medicamento siempre con ellos.
  • Asegúrese que sepan qué cosas desencadenan su asma y como evitarlas en la escuela.
  • Haga que su hijo practique administrarse su medicamento enfrente de usted.
  • Asegúrese que sepan como avisarle a un adulto cuando comiencen a tener síntomas de asma.

Después de haber preparado a su hijo/a, es importante estar seguro que la escuela está preparada para recibir a él/ella.

  • Llame a la escuela y asegúrese de obtener y firmar todos los formularios requeridos por usted, de manera que su hijo pueda llevar consigo sus medicamentos.
  • Haga una cita para conocer a la enfermera de la escuela y asegúrese de explicarle cuáles son los síntomas de asma de su hijo, qué cosas pueden provocarle síntomas y qué medicamentos utiliza.
  • Proporcione a la escuela un plan de acción para el asma y póngase de acuerdo con los encargados en cuanto a los lugares en donde se mantendrá dicho plan.
  • Asegúrese que la escuela tenga todos los teléfonos de emergencia necesarios para poder contactarla a usted o a cualquier otra persona que tenga conocimiento del asma de su hijo/a.
  • Al inicio de cada año escolar, reúnase con el maestro encargado de su hijo/a para explicarle e informarle acerca del asma de su niño/a.
  • Los niños con asma tienen el derecho de estar a salvo mientras estén en la escuela. Por favor asegúrese que la escuela sepa de cualquier cambio, arreglo o ajuste que necesite realizar para que esto sea possible.

Preparing for School with Asthma

Download the Preparing for School with Asthma – What You Need to Know PDF or en español, Preparándose para la Escuela – Lo Que Usted Necesita Saber PDF.


If your child has asthma, it is important to start preparing for school early. All children in Illinois with asthma are allowed to carry and use their quick-relief asthma inhaler while at school, so you’ll want to make sure your child knows how to use his or her inhaler during the school day.

Begin letting your child use his or her quick-reliever at least six months before starting school. By practicing together, you can ensure your child is using the inhaler correctly and does not have your help. There will be mistakes, so it is best that you are there to correct them.

Be sure to teach your child:

  • That it is important to always keep his or her asthma medicine nearby.
  • What triggers his or her asthma and how to avoid these triggers at school.
  • How to recognize his or her asthma signs and symptoms.
  • How to tell an adult when asthma symptoms start.
  • When to use quick-reliever medicine.
  • How to use quick-reliever medicine with a spacer.

Ensure that your school has the necessary materials:

As of August 2010, in accordance with Illinois Public Act 096-1460, your child does not need a doctor’s note to carry and use a quick-relief asthma inhaler at school.

The school does need:

  • You to fill out and promptly return all required forms, including documentation of an asthma diagnosis.
  • A note signed by you explaining that your child can carry and use his or her quick-relief inhaler.
  • The prescription label off of your child’s medication box.

Make sure the school is ready for your child:

  • Call and meet with school staff to file an Individualized Health Care Plan (504 plan), a legal document that provides modifications to your child while at school.
  • Ensure that the nurse and teacher have an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan is a written document that explains your child’s asthma triggers, symptoms, medicines and actions to take during an asthma episode.
  • Provide two inhalers whenever possible. Your child should carry one with him/her, and the school staff should keep a backup.
  • Provide the school with emergency contact information so you or someone else can be reached in an emergency.


Download the Spacers – What You Need to Know PDF.


Many asthma medications come in a small metal canister called a metered dose inhaler (MDI). The inhaler expels the medication in a fast, short burst. It is recommended that you use a spacer (holding chamber) with your MDI. There are many different types of spacers. Your health care provider can prescribe and show you how to use the one that is best for you.

If your health care provider has given you one quick relief inhaler and one long-term controller inhaler, it is important to know which one to use when.


When possible, use a spacer with your metered dose inhaler. A spacer is a plastic tube that connects to the mouthpiece of an inhaler and helps get medication deeper into the lungs and airways. It helps direct the medication to the airways so that each dose of medication is more effective.

Clean your spacer and MDI each week to prevent the buildup of medication:

  1. Take the spacer apart (as recommended by manufacturer’s instructions)
  2. Wash each piece separately with warm, soapy water
  3. Do not rinse
  4. Let dry on a clean, lint-free towel

Some spacers have a delicate, soft valve disc under the mouthpiece. Do not rip off the disk. If the disk begins to harden or curl, replace your spacer.

How to Use Your MDI with a Spacer

  1. Remove all food, candy and gum from your mouth.
  2. Stand up straight.
  3. Remove the cap from your inhaler and spacer. Make sure to clean out any dust or fuzz so that there is nothing inside either one.
  4. Shake the inhaler for 5 seconds.
  5. Place the inhaler into the spacer.
  6. Take a deep breath in and out.
  7. Put the spacer in your mouth and seal your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.
  8. Press down on your inhaler and take a long, slow breath in.
  9. Hold your breath for 10 seconds, and then breathe out.


This content is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical advice.

Peak Flow Meters

Download the Peak Flow Meters – What You Need to Know PDF.


Peak flow meters measure how you push air out of your lungs. Your health care provider can prescribe one for you to help manage your asthma. Peak flow meters are usually used with Asthma Action Plans.

Using Your Peak Flow Meter

  1. Remove all food, candy or gum from your mouth.
  2. Stand up straight.
  3. Set the marker to zero.
  4. Take in a deep breath.
  5. Place the peak flow meter in your mouth and seal your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.
  6. Exhale hard and fast into the meter.
  7. Remove the peak flow meter from your mouth.
  8. Look at your number and write it down.
  9. Repeat all the above steps two more times.
  10. After three attempts, record the highest number into your log.

Cleaning Instructions

  1. Clean peak flow meter once a week.
  2. Wash with warm water and a mild liquid soap.
  3. Rinse gently and allow to air dry completely on a lint free towel.
  4. Refer to your peak flow meter instructions for further information.


This content is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical advice.

Asthma Medications

Download the Asthma Medications – What You Need to Know PDF.


There are two main types of asthma medications: quick-relief (or reliever) and long-term control (or controllers). Talk to your health care provider to determine the medication(s) you should use.

Quick-relief Medication (Reliever)

Who should have it?

  • Everyone with asthma should be prescribed quick-relief medication by a health care provider
  • Carry it with you at all times

How does it work?

  • Relieves the squeezing of the muscles around the airways
  • Works within 10 to 15 minutes of use

When should it be used?

  • Upon first warning sign

What are the side effects?

  • Rapid heart rate, shaky hands, jittery feeling
  • Symptoms go away a half-hour after using your medication

What are some common types?

  • Pro Air®
  • Proventil®
  • Ventolin®
  • Xopenex®

Helpful tips

  • Label your quick-relief medication with “QR”
  • Use a spacer with your quick-relief inhaler so the medication gets deeper into your lungs


Long-Term Controller Medication

Who Should Have It?

  • Only those with a prescription

How Does It Work?

  • Prevents swelling and mucus build up in the airways
  • Makes airways less sensitive to triggers

When Should It be Used?

  • Every day
  • Even if you do not have symptoms

What are the Side Effects?

  • Hoarseness
  • Thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth (rinse your mouth with water and spit to avoid thrush)

What are Some Common Types?

  • Advair
  • Flovent
  • Pulmincort
  • Qvar
  • Singulair
  • Symbicort

Helpful Tips

  • Do not store in the bathroom (humidity can make medication clump)
  • Use a spacer with your long-term controller inhaler so the medication gets deeper into your lungs


This content is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical advice.

Asthma Triggers

Download the Asthma and Triggers – What You Need to Know PDF.


Triggers are things that bother sensitive airways and lead to asthma episodes. Triggers can include allergens and irritants. Not all triggers affect people the same way, so it is important for everyone with asthma to know their triggers and ways to avoid them.

General Trigger Tips

  • Always carry your quick-relief inhaler.
  • Know your triggers and avoid contact with them as much as possible.
  • Take your triggers seriously; asthma gets worse with every trigger you encounter.


Dust mites

Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in and eat dust. Possible solutions for reducing dust mites include using dust mite-proof mattress and pillow covers, washing sheets and stuffed animals regularly, and remove rugs or carpets.

Animals with Fur or Feathers

Animals with fur produce dander, or dried saliva and skin cells. When possible, keep animals out of bedrooms and off of upholstered furniture.


Mold grows in areas that are dark, wet or humid. If mold is present, fix the source of mold and clean with bleach solution (10 parts water to 1 part bleach).


Pollen travels through the air and comes into the home at certain times of the year. Keep windows closed and avoid being outside on days with high pollen levels.


Many people are allergic to cockroaches. To reduce the likelihood of cockroaches, keep food and garbage sealed. Avoid eating in the living room and bedroom. Use gels and roach motels instead of sprays, which can trigger asthma.



Smoke in any form can irritate the airways. Do not allow smoking in the house and avoid fireplaces.


Outdoor air pollution can irritate the airways. Limit physical activity outside on days with bad air quality. Check for daily forecasts.

Strong Odors

Perfumes and cleaning products can make asthma worse. Avoid using strong perfumes, aerosol sprays, candles and cleaning products with strong odors.

Other Triggers


Cold air can dry out airways and trigger asthma. Cover your mouth and nose on cold days. Hot, humid days hold more pollen and pollution in the air. Stay indoors.


Exercise can trigger asthma symptoms. Talk to your health care provider about using your quick-relief inhaler 15 minutes before exercising.


A cold or the flu can make controlling your asthma hard. Get your flu shot every year. Wash your hands frequently.


Laughter, crying and anger change breathing patterns. Always keep asthma in good control and carry a quick-relief inhaler.


This content is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for medical advice.