Does My Child Have Asthma? Know the Signs and Symptoms
Childhood asthma is a growing concern in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 6 million children have asthma. In other words, if you look at a classroom of 30 students, at least three of them struggle with this chronic condition of the lungs.
Because asthma is one of the leading causes of school absence, it often has a great affect on a child’s learning, development, and growth. It can also hurt self esteem, as kids often feel limited on the playground or sports field.
These are the last things you want for your child.
As a parent, it is vitally important to understand the symptoms of asthma and how to spot them early on. While this disease is on the rise, it can be controlled fairly easily. A proper diagnosis is the first step to making sure your child maintains a normal and healthy lifestyle.
Understanding Asthma Triggers
In the past, people mistakenly believed that asthma was a temporary condition. Some even thought it was mental, and associated the struggle for air brought on by an asthma attack with childhood anxiety. The truth is, asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that is never outgrown, only managed. Certain triggers (which vary from child to child) cause the airways to become narrowed or inflamed. These may include:
- Allergens (such as pollen, dust, or pet dander)
- Exercise or overexertion
- Cold air
- Viral infections
- Smoke or air pollution
- Products with strong fragrances
Spotting the Symptoms
Asthma symptoms are frequently mistaken for allergies, sinus problems, or simple cough related to a cold virus. Any symptom that lasts for more than a week should be evaluated by a doctor. Don’t hesitate to bring up asthma, even if your child has been previously diagnosed with something else. Especially talk to your doctor if:
- Your baby or toddler constantly coughs or wheezes
While many doctors will wait until the child is a little older to make a definitive diagnosis, these chronic symptoms need to be brought up and treated with proper medication. High-pitched wheezing is a common early sign of asthma.
- Your older child verbalizes a feeling of chest tightness
Shortness of breath or chest tightness, especially after physical activity can point to asthma. If your child is telling you they have a funny feeling in their chest, or if you can see that they are struggling for air, schedule an appointment immediately.
Identifying an Emergency
Ideally, parents would spot asthma symptoms early on and control the condition before an attack takes place. However, for many children, an attack is the event that leads to the asthma diagnosis. Watch out for:
- Rapid breaths that seem short or shallow
- A whistling sound when breathing
- Difficulty crying or speaking
- A sudden stop in wheezing or coughing, which may indicate a closed airway
- Blue skin, lips, or fingernails (Call 911!)
After an asthma attack, your child may be exhausted — even for up to a few days. Having the proper treatment on hand can minimize the risk of another attack, which ultimately prevents long-term damage to the lungs.
Assess Your Child’s Risk With Our Free Infographic
If you’re wondering whether your child has asthma, our infographic can shed more light on the symptoms, common risk factors, and treatments available.