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Asthma in Children - Symptoms

Symptoms of asthma can be mild or severe. Your child may have no symptoms; severe, daily symptoms; or something in between. How often your child has symptoms can also change.

Symptoms of asthma may include:

  • Wheezing, a whistling noise of varying loudness that occurs when the airways of the lungs (bronchial tubes camera.gif) narrow.
  • Coughing, which is the only symptom for some children.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Shortness of breath, which is rapid, shallow breathing or difficulty breathing.
  • Sleep disturbance.
  • Tiring quickly during exercise.

If your child has only one or two of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean he or she has asthma. The more of these symptoms your child has, the more likely it is that he or she has asthma.

Many children have symptoms that become worse at night (nocturnal asthma). In all people, lung function changes throughout the day and night. In children with asthma, this often is very noticeable, especially at night. Nighttime cough and shortness of breath occur frequently. In general, waking at night because of shortness of breath or cough indicates poorly controlled asthma.

It can be hard to know how severe your child's asthma attack is. Knowing this is important, because severe attacks may require emergency treatment. But in most cases you can take care of your child's symptoms at home with an asthma action plan, which is a written plan that tells you which medicine your child needs to use and when you should call a doctor or seek emergency treatment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: January 24, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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