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Oxygen to treat more severe asthma attacks

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for parents of a child who has asthma. It tells you about using oxygen, a treatment used for more severe asthma attacks. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes, if your child is having a bad asthma attack, and needs hospital treatment, they may be given oxygen. Giving your child extra oxygen to breathe helps to get enough of it to important parts of their body.

What is it?

Oxygen is one of the gases in the air we breathe. If you can't breathe in enough oxygen, your body can't work properly.

If your child has a severe asthma attack and is taken to hospital, he or she may be given oxygen to breathe in through a mask. This is to be certain they're getting all the oxygen they need.

How can it help?

If your child has problems breathing, being given extra oxygen to breathe can help keep their body working properly. They may be less likely to: [85]

  • Be admitted to the hospital (and stay overnight)

  • Need steroids and other drugs to treat the asthma attack.

How does it work?

Children who are having a bad asthma attack can have dangerously low levels of oxygen in their blood. The body's organs, including the heart and brain, cannot work properly without enough oxygen. When doctors, nurses, or paramedics give your child extra oxygen to breathe, they are trying to increase the supply of oxygen going to important parts of the body.

Can it be harmful?

There is no evidence that extra oxygen can harm children having an asthma attack.

How good is the research on oxygen to treat more severe asthma attacks?

It wouldn't be fair to do studies comparing children who got oxygen during an asthma attack with children who didn't. That's because doctors have known for a long time that oxygen helps children who are having difficulty breathing because of an asthma attack.

We did find one study that showed that children did better after an asthma attack if they had higher amounts of oxygen in their blood. [85]


For references related to Asthma in children click here.
Last Updated: July 03, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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