Asthma in Children - Overview
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This topic provides
information about asthma in children. If you are looking for information about
asthma in teens and adults, see the topic
Asthma in Teens and Adults.
What is asthma?
Asthma makes it hard for your
child to breathe. It causes
swelling and inflammation in the airways that lead to the lungs. When asthma
flares up, the airways tighten and become narrower. This keeps the air from
passing through easily and makes it hard for your child to breathe. These flare-ups are also called asthma attacks or exacerbations.
affects children in different ways. Some children only have
asthma attacks during allergy season, when they
breathe in cold air, or when they exercise. Others have many bad attacks that
send them to the doctor often.
Even if your child has few asthma
attacks, you still need to treat the asthma. If the swelling and irritation in
your child's airways isn't controlled, asthma could lower your child's quality
of life, prevent your child from exercising, and increase your child's risk of
going to the hospital.
Even though asthma is a lifelong disease,
treatment can control it and keep your child healthy. Many children with asthma
play sports and live healthy, active lives.
What causes asthma?
Experts do not know exactly
what causes asthma. But there are some things we do know:
- Asthma runs in families.
is much more common in people who have allergies, though not everyone with
allergies gets asthma. And not everyone with asthma has allergies.
- Pollution may make asthma worse.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of asthma can be
mild or severe. When your child has asthma, he or she may:
- Wheeze, making
a loud or soft whistling noise that occurs when the airways
- Cough a lot.
- Feel tightness in the
- Feel short of breath.
- Have trouble sleeping
because of coughing and wheezing.
- Quickly get tired during
Many children with asthma have symptoms that are worse at
How is asthma diagnosed?
Along with doing a
physical exam and asking about your child's symptoms, your doctor may order
tests such as:
Doctors use this test to diagnose and keep track of asthma in children age 5
and older. It measures how quickly your child can move air in and out of the
lungs and how much air is moved. Spirometry is not used with babies and small
children. In those cases, the doctor usually will listen for wheezing and will
ask how often the child wheezes or coughs.
- Peak expiratory flow (PEF). This shows how much air your
child can breathe out when trying his or her hardest.
- A chest
X-ray to see if another disease is causing your
- Allergy tests, if your doctor thinks your child's
symptoms may be caused by allergies.
Your child needs routine checkups so your doctor can keep
track of the asthma and decide on treatment.