May 8, 2000 -- The trick with asthma is catching it early, especially in the
very young. More than half the cases in kids under 5 go undiagnosed, and
untreated asthma can make the condition worse. "Asthma is very hard to
diagnose in young children," says Robert Nathan, MD, a clinical professor
of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and a member
of the board of directors at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and
Immunology. "Infants can't tell you their chest feels tight."
Therefore, parents of the youngest kids need to be especially vigilant for the
early warning signs of asthma.
It is not uncommon for the disease to be diagnosed when a child's first
major asthma attack requires a trip to the emergency room. But doctors hope to
prevent this scenario by educating parents about warning signs in order to help
them spot the disease earlier.
I think my mother was more worried about my going to college two years ago than I was. I have had asthma since I was very young.
It was worse when I was younger. I used to have to use an inhaler before I ran the mile in PE class. And one time I had a big role in a play, and I developed pneumonia. My asthma got really bad. I remember using my nebulizer -- a machine that creates a medicated inhalable mist -- backstage before I went on. And I hid cough drops on the backs of set pieces to help me get...
The main indicators of asthma are wheezing, shortness of breath, and
chest-tightening. A chronic cough is another big clue, especially if there is
no obvious cause. While it's not unusual for toddlers to have runny noses,
parents should pay attention to a nose that is always running, as this could be
a signal that the airway tissues are producing too much mucus. Children with
asthma are also more susceptible to respiratory infections.
Parents should also be aware that the disease has hereditary links, so if it
is known to run in their families, any of these symptoms could be a good reason
to ask a doctor about asthma.
Will Wade is a San Francisco-based writer. He has a 4-year-old daughter and
was the co-founder of a monthly parenting magazine. His work has appeared in
POV Magazine and The San Francisco Examiner.