Childhood Asthma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Watching your child experience the symptoms of asthma or have an asthma attack can be one of the scariest things to witness as a parent. In this article, we’ve covered everything you need to know about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition in which the lungs and airway become easily inflamed when exposed to common irritants such as pollen and other allergens. Symptoms can interfere with play, school, or sleep — and can even lead to dangerous asthma attacks.

Asthma triggers can vary from child to child and even change over time. You may find that your child’s symptoms are caused by pet dander, exposure to smoke, weather changes, cold air, dust mites, mold, pollen, and other common environmental triggers.

Risk factors for developing asthma include allergies, a family history of asthma, obesity, frequent pediatric airway infections, living in an area with a high level of environmental toxins or air pollution, and prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke.

Asthma often requires treatment from a licensed medical professional in order to get symptoms under control and prevent permanent lung damage.

Childhood Asthma

Symptoms of Childhood Asthma

The most common symptoms of childhood asthma include:

  • Frequent coughing
  • Coughing that worsens during illness, sleep, physical activity, and/or cold air
  • Whistling or wheezing while breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest congestion

Untreated and undiagnosed asthma can also lead to:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Delayed recovery from illness
  • The inability to participate in sports, exercise, or play
  • Asthma attacks

Your child may be experiencing an asthma-related medical emergency if:

  • Their chest and sides are pulling inward in an effort to breathe
  • They are experiencing an elevated heart rate, sweating, and chest pain
  • Your child’s nostrils are widening as they struggle to breathe in
  • Their trouble breathing is so severe they are having trouble speaking
  • Their face, lips, or fingernails are turning blue

Seek immediate medical attention if your child is experiencing severe trouble breathing.

Symptoms of asthma can mimic other common childhood conditions, such as bronchitis, so be sure to visit your child’s doctor for a full evaluation and proper diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Childhood Asthma

Asthma often starts during childhood, usually before the age of five. To help your child’s doctor make an accurate diagnosis, be sure to track your child’s symptoms to identify any patterns in their triggers, such as time of day or weather.

Potential diagnostic tools include:

  • Physical exam
  • Medical history
  • Chest X-ray
  • Lung function testing (such as spirometry)
  • Allergy testing
  • Bloodwork

Your child’s doctor may also suggest a trial run of asthma medications to see if it helps alleviate their symptoms.

Treatment of Childhood Asthma

One thing parents often want to know is if childhood asthma can be outgrown. While symptoms can be managed and asthma can become under control, there is no cure for asthma, and symptoms often persist into adulthood.

  • Avoiding triggers – The most common triggers include exposure to air pollution, cigarette smoke, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, or mold. Other triggers can include viral infections like the common cold, weather changes, cold air, and physical activity.
  • Lifestyle changes – Helping your child maintain a healthy weight, good diet, and regular physical activity can help their lungs work more efficiently and alleviate the symptoms of childhood asthma.
  • Medication – The most common treatment options for acute symptoms of asthma include rescue inhalers and nebulizers. Preventive medications, known as control medications, are also available. Childhood asthma medications are very efficient when used as prescribed. Call your child’s doctor to learn more.

If you think your child may have asthma, please schedule an office visit today to discuss diagnosis and treatment with one of our friendly, board-certified pediatricians.