Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, or bronchial tubes. People with the disease have sensitive airways that react to triggers, causing a “flare-up” in which the muscles around the airway squeeze and the airways become narrow. There is also more mucus. These factors make it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of asthma of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest.
Diagnosing asthma in children can be difficult, especially when children are younger. They may have a difficult time with the airflow test, and infants and toddlers can’t describe what they’re feeling. In order to make sure the child receives timely treatment, caregivers have to observe any symptoms they may be displaying.
Here are some signs that your child may have asthma.
Family history and diagnosis
Allergies and asthma run in families—so if you have a family history of it, then it’s more likely your child will get it. Tell your child’s pediatrician if anyone in your family has asthma or allergies, including hay fever, eczema, or hives. Your child may then be referred to an allergist.
The allergist may do skin or blood tests to determine whether your child has allergies which can produce asthmatic symptoms. It’s possible to have these tests at any age. The doctor may prescribe asthma medicine. If the child’s symptoms get better while taking the medicine, it may be a sign that their symptoms are in fact asthma.
Most children with asthma display symptoms before they are five. For infants and toddlers, it may be difficult for parents and even doctors to determine that symptoms are due to asthma. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers already have small airways, and these can be inflamed by head colds, chest colds and other illnesses—which makes airways even smaller.
Symptoms of childhood asthma include:
- Frequent, intermittent coughing, especially at night
- A wheezing or whistling sound when exhaling
- Shortness of breath
- Chest congestion or tightness
- Chest pain, especially in younger children.
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
- Coughing or wheezing that worsen with cold or the flu
- Slow recovery or bronchitis after cold or flu
- Trouble breathing that may restrict play or exercise
- Fatigue brought on by poor sleep
Your child may have one of these symptoms or several. In a young child, asthma may first appear as recurrent wheezing brought on by a respiratory infection. In older children, it’s more common to experience asthma associated with respiratory allergies. Symptoms vary from child to child, and it may improve or worsen with time.
Should I take my child to urgent care?
It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you think your child may have asthma. Early treatment helps control daily symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. In addition to being physically dangerous, these attacks can be highly traumatic for the child.
In severe cases, your child’s chest and sides may pull inward as she is struggling to breathe. The child may experience sweating, increased heart rate and/or chest pain. Take her to the emergency room or urgent care if any of the following occur:
- He or she has to stop talking to catch her breath
- He or she is using abdominal muscles to breathe
- His or her nostrils widen during inhalation
- His or her abdomen is sucked in under the ribs during inhalation
Addressing childhood asthma
Asthma and allergies run in families, so if you have a family history of either of these, your child is more likely to have them. (repeated sentence) Keep an eye out for common symptoms of asthma, and take your child to a reputable urgent care center (or whichever medical facility is most convenient) as soon as symptoms appear. If your child is experiencing any of the severe symptoms described above, seek emergency treatment immediately.