A Saskatchewan couple are warning other parents to be aware of the risks of asthma following the unexpected death of their two-year-old son.

Sheri and Michael Olain remember the day their son Emerson tragically died last December, just short of his third birthday.

Emerson had been battling a chest infection and Sheri Olain took him to the ER, where he was treated and later released. But the small boy died in the car on the way home.

Sheri Olain said she replays the events of that day in her head all the time.

"The day he died, I think about it every single day," she told CTV Saskatoon. "I wish I could forget that morning, and think about the good things.

"I go through that morning. I go through different scenarios… mostly if I would have stayed (at the hospital), if I would have just not left."

Emerson wasn't diagnosed with asthma until an autopsy determined the cause of death. The news that their young son had asthma came as a shock to everyone, Michael Olain said.

"I never thought in a million years that Emerson would die of an asthma attack, or anyone in this household would die of an asthma attack," he said.

The Olains' story isn't uncommon. While the number of people who die from asthma attacks is relatively low, asthma is one of the top reasons for trips to ERs.

It highlights the fact that asthma is common and serious, says Jill Hubick, of the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.

"We often don't think about our lungs or our breath, until something takes our breath away," she told CTV Saskatoon. "So it's important to understand what asthma is, understand that an asthma emergency can happen and it can be life-threatening."

The Canadian Lung Association says there are a few ways to help control asthma symptoms. They include:

  • Knowing and avoiding triggers of asthma
  • Taking medications
  • Carrying rescue medication for emergencies

Hubick said it's also important to be able to recognize the signs of an asthma attack and have an action plan in place should one occur.

For parents this means recognizing when your child's asthma is under control, and checking in often with them, she said.

The Olains couldn't stress this advice enough. It's part of the reason why they're sharing their story and urging other parents to learn more about asthma.

"It's one of those things, you never think it'll happen to you, and then it does and then you realize just how important and short life can be," Michael Olain said.

With a report from CTV Saskatoon's Chantal Huber