BACKGROUND: Asthma is the most common obstructive airway disease in children and adults. Nasal high flow (NHF) is a recent device that is now used as a primary support for respiratory distress. Several studies have reported use of NHF as a respiratory support in status asthmaticus; however, there are no data to recommend such practice. We therefore conducted this preliminary study to evaluate NHF therapy for children with status asthmaticus admitted to our PICU in order to prepare a multicentre randomized controlled study. RESULTS: Between November 2009 and January 2014, 73 patients with status asthmaticus were admitted to the PICU, of whom 39 (53%) were treated with NHF and among these 10 (26%) presented severe acidosis at admission (pH < 7.30). Thirty-four less severe children (41%) were treated with standard oxygen. For one child (2.6%) NHF failed and was then switched to non-invasive ventilation. NHF was discontinued in another patient because of the occurrence of pneumothorax after 31 h with NHF; the patient was then switched to standard oxygen therapy. Mean +/- SD heart rate (165 +/- 21 vs. 141 +/- 25/min, p < 0.01) and respiratory rate (40 +/- 13 vs. 31 +/- 8/min, p < 0.01) decreased significantly, and blood gas improved in the first 24 h. In the subgroup of patients with acidosis, median [IQR] pH increased significantly between hour 0 and 2 (7.25 [7.21-7.26] vs. 7.30 [7.27-7.33], p = 0.009) and median [IQR] pCO2 decreased significantly (7.27 kPa [6.84-7.91 vs. 5.85 kPa [5.56-6.11], p = 0.007). No patient was intubated. CONCLUSION: This retrospective study showed the feasibility and safety of NHF in children with severe asthma. Blood gas and clinical parameters were significantly improved during the first 24 h. NHF failed in only two patients, and none required invasive ventilation.