Asthma UK community forum

Intercostal breathing

Last year we became guardians to Scott 7 last month We are managing his asthma quite well considering we have no knowlege of asthma at all. I discovered this website while surfing the web for more info Its a godsend with lots of useful info and this forum is so helpful too. Since Scott moved tothe North of Scotland from the Borders he has had a lot of colds and coughs which are a trigger for his asthma Wehave so far managed at home with adding Ventolin 4xdailly and upping his Becotide 100 to 3 or 4x dailly The practice nurse mentioned being aware of intercostal breathing and breathing using accessory muscles Could anyone explain this to me I should have asked nurse but I'm usually forgetting to ask something when I'm there Hope everyone is well and thanks.

3 Replies

Hi Jass

It's really difficult to explain 'intercostal' breathing and breating using hte 'accessory' muscles. If you can't see or speak to your asthma nurse then i'd ring the asthma nurses on this site - they're really good and will be able to explain it - also as they don't appear to be on a 'clock' they will be able to help with any other questions.

It's a sign that we look for in our little man (3) but i have to say that when he was first diagnosed i found it really difficult to tell when he was and wasn't breathing that way.

I'm sorry not to have been of any real help but i don't want to give advice that may be wrong and as i'm not medically trained i am likely to 'mess up'.

I hope that Scott is well at the moment - I'm sure asthma aside things must be pretty tough at times.

take care



Look at another person when they breathe (but don't tell them you're watching!), and you'll notice that the chest expands and contracts with each breath in and out, but very little else moves at all. Someone breathing with accessory muscles is using a whole range of additional muscles in a vain attempt to get more air into the lungs - and is a tell-tale sign of someone struggling for breath. Common accessory muscles used are those muscles of the shoulders and neck (and occasionally even the nose!) - they move up and down with each breath, and waste lots of energy, thereby tiring the person out a lot quicker.


Intercostal breathing is when you see indrawing in between the ribs. It shows the child is working very hard to try and get some breath into the lungs. Child requires ventoliln inhaler at least 10 puffs, and try to calm the child down as any stress will make it worse. You need to get medical assistance as Childs condition could deteriorate. Hope this helps.


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