Childhood Asthma

Children with recurrent cough, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath may have one or more forms of asthma. Left untreated, asthmatic children often have less stamina than other children, or avoid physical activities to prevent coughing or wheezing. Sometimes they will complain that their chest hurts or that they can not catch their breath. Colds may go straight to their chest. Or, they may cough when sick, particularly at night. Asthma has multiple causes, and it is not uncommon for two or more different causes to be present in one child. Asthma is more than wheezing. Coughing, recurrent bronchitis and shortness of breath, especially when exercising, are also ways that asthma appears.


Diagnosing the precise cause of asthma is sometimes difficult because two or more causes may be present in one child. Unfortunately, there is not a single test that provides all the answers. An allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, has specialized training and experience to determine if your child has asthma, what is causing it and develop a treatment plan. Your child’s allergist will want to learn how often episodes of wheezing, coughing or other symptoms occur; as well as how bad they are. It is important to understand what triggers your child’s symptoms, and what (including medications) makes them go away. An understanding of your family history and environment (such as smoking or pets) is useful, so your physician may ask.

Infants may need extra attention during the diagnostic process because asthma symptoms can be caused by many things in this age group, some of which need very different therapies. When an infant has asthma symptoms, it is sometimes called reactive airway disease. The two most common triggers of asthma in children are colds and allergens. After infancy, allergies become particularly important, and therefore asthmatic children should have an allergy evaluation to help diagnose and manage their asthma. Avoiding the allergens to which your child is allergic may help improve his or her asthma.

If your child is older than 5 years, he or she may be asked to perform pulmonary function testing to learn how air flows in his or her lungs. Other tests that your physician may discuss with you include measures of inflammation, a chest x-ray and tests for some of the less common causes of asthma-like symptoms.

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