Could your kids have asthma?
Parents often come to their Pediatrician's office asking for an 'asthma test' when their kids are coughing or having trouble breathing. Unfortunately, especially for younger kids, there isn't usually an easy test that your doctor can do to test your child for asthma.
Instead, a diagnosis of asthma is usually made more by recognizing if a child has asthma symptoms.
In children, asthma symptoms can include:
- wheezing (keep in mind that you often can't hear wheezing, unless it is very severe, without a stethoscope)
- wheezing or coughing during or after active playing or exercise
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- a dry cough at night
If you think your child has any asthma symptoms, especially if asthma or allergies run in the family, talk to your Pediatrician and/or consider seeing a Pediatric Pulmonologist for an evaluation.
Subtle Asthma Symptoms
Less obvious asthma symptoms, which often aren't recognized as being caused by asthma, can include:
- poor exercise tolerance, especially if your child is not able to keep up with other kids who are the same age
- chest tightness or chest pain
- trouble sleeping
- frequent coughing without ever wheezing (cough variant asthma)
- having colds that always seem to last for weeks and weeks or several months at a time
- recurrent episodes of RSV or bronchiolitis
Older children can often have pulmonary function tests or do peak flows to help make or confirm a diagnosis of asthma. Many children can not do these tests until they are at least 4 to 7 years old though.
Diagnosing a younger child with asthma is not always as straightforward a thing as parents believe it should be. There are many complicating factors, including that many infants and toddlers cough and wheeze when they get simple viral infections, such as RSV.
And many younger kids, especially if they are in day care, can get frequent infections that make it seem like they are always coughing.
Unfortunately, many Pediatricians are a little wary of labeling kids as having asthma and so put off making a formal diagnosis. If your child has typical or even subtle asthma symptoms, you may have to ask about asthma if your Pediatrician doesn't bring it up on her own.
And keep in mind that if your Pediatrician has diagnosed your child with RAD or Reactive Airway Disease and your child continues to need an inhaler and continues to have asthma symptoms, then he likely just has asthma...