Asthma Symptoms In Children
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. Many children with asthma have times when they have few, if any symptoms. They also have times when symptoms flare up. Symptoms may include:
- Wheezing or whistling sound that is heard while your child is breathing
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath while your child is active
- Chest tightness
The symptoms of asthma can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her health care provider for a diagnosis.
Getting The Flu With Asthma
Asthma is a condition where the airways of the lungs are hyperresponsivethey overreactto a specific trigger such as allergies , cold air, or exercise. It can start in childhood, the teen years, or adulthood. Asthma can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, cough, and chest tightness.
The flu, which is caused by the influenza virus, is a common asthma trigger, as are other viruses like the common cold. By itself, the flu can cause fever, body aches, headache, congestion, a sore throat, tiredness, and loss of appetite. People with asthma often have more severe flu symptoms for a longer period of time. The flu can also make their asthma symptoms worse.
Care Advice For Asthma Attack
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Is Asthma Triggered By Cold Air
When someone with asthma breathes in cold, dry air, it can make the muscles inside start to spasm while also trying to keep airways open. This further irritates the lining of the airways and causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Cold air can trigger asthma symptoms and flare-ups, especially when theres dryness in cold air. For many people with asthma, its the dryness in cold air that can lead to breathing problems. Cold air accompanied by windy conditions can also trigger symptoms. In general, the more severe your asthma is, the more likely cold air is to affect you.
How To Tell You Have Asthma
Asthma is a complex disease to diagnose, and only a healthcare professional is able to make a proper diagnosis.
If you are concerned that you may have asthma, contact your healthcare provider. In order to confirm an asthma diagnosis, your healthcare provider will take into account your medical and family history, allergies, and conduct lung function testing such as spirometry.
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Favorite Blogs About Living With Asthma
The Asthma Allergies Children blog is the work of two physicians, both trained in allergies and immunology. The blog covers topics like medication adherence, cost of care, doctors pet peeves, integrative medicine, new research, and other news. For timely takes on noteworthy topics, check it out.
Stephen Gaudet was born with severe asthma more than 60 years ago and started his blog back in 2004. The blog chronicles the trials and tribulations asthma has caused him, as well as the victories. To date, Gaudet has completed 21 races and nine marathons . Read more about his debilitating diagnosis and how he has overcome it.
Additional reporting bySari Harrar.
How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Asthma
Your healthcare provider will review your medical history, including information about your parents and siblings. Your provider will also ask you about your symptoms. Your provider will need to know any history of allergies, eczema and other lung diseases.
Your provider may order spirometry. This test measures airflow through your lungs and is used to diagnose and monitor your progress with treatment. Your healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray, blood test or skin test.
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Other Terms Used To Describe Asthma
Aside from the chronic asthma classifications and acute asthma exacerbation, there are additional subtypes used to provide insights into your asthma. They can also help predict how you may respond to treatment.
Characterizing your asthma may help identify specific triggers and guide the development of new treatments to help manage and prevent attacks.
The below subtypes may be chronic or acute, so its important to discuss them with your doctor and follow the appropriate treatment plan for each.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Catching A Cold Or The Flu If I Have Asthma
The NHS website has more advice on:
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Asthma Myth #: Asthma Is A Mental Condition Not Physical
While stress or emotion can trigger asthma symptoms, asthma is not a psychological or mental condition. Asthma is a chronic, physical disease that occurs when airways become swollen and inflamed. A child’s airway can tighten when the body reacts to certain triggers, such as allergens, smoke, exercise, cold air or stress. This physical reaction makes it difficult to breathe.
Some psychological conditions can cause asthma-like symptoms. For instance, a panic attack may cause shortness of breath or a sudden inability to breathe. However, these symptoms are not the same as asthma.
Can A Virus Make Asthma Worse
Studies show that viral infections cause asthma symptoms to worsen. One of the most common triggers of an asthma attack is viral or bacterial infections, like a cold, flu, pneumonia, or sinus infection. When you are sick, your airways become inflamed and narrowedmaking it more challenging to take in air. Respiratory viruses often cause an increase in mucus, which can also make breathing difficult.
Shortness of breath is a symptom of COVID-19, and for people with asthma it can be even worse. People with asthma are at higher risk for severe illness if they catch the novel coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , for many of the same reasons other respiratory illnesses exacerbate symptoms.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed
Asthma is diagnosed by a spectrum of variables, not just one thing, Dr. Ogden says. Your doctor will look at your clinical history and symptoms, pulmonary function testing, and response to medication.
One thing you will need for diagnosis is a big inhale and exhale, or several. Among the breathing tests that are used to measure how well your lungs work are:
- A spirometry test diagnoses asthma severity and measures how well treatment is working. You take a deep breath and blow into a sensor to measure the amount of air your lungs can hold and the speed of the air you inhale or exhale.
- A fractional exhaled nitric oxide test measures how much inflammation you have in your lungs.
- Peak expiratory flow tests measure how fast you can blow out air using maximum effort. This test can be done during spirometry or by breathing into a separate device, like a tube.
What Should I Know About Covid
If you have asthma that is moderate-to-severe, or if your asthma symptoms arent well controlled, youre at greater risk of having to be hospitalized if you get COVID-19. Therefore, you should wear a mask if you go to indoor spaces with other people, get vaccinated and avoid exposure to people who have the virus.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Many people live fulfilling lives with asthma. Some professional athletes with asthma have set records in their sports. Your healthcare provider can help you find the best way to manage your asthma. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to control your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/19/2022.
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Why Is My Asthma Worse At Night
Asthma that gets worse at night is sometimes called nighttime asthma or nocturnal asthma. There are no definite reasons that this happens, but there are some educated guesses. These include:
- The way you sleep: Sleeping on your back can result in mucus dripping into your throat or acid reflux coming back up from your stomach. Also, sleeping on your back puts pressure on your chest and lungs, which makes breathing more difficult. However, lying face down or on your side can put pressure on your lungs.
- Triggers in your bedroom and triggers that happen in the evening: You may find your blankets, sheets and pillows have dust mites, mold or pet hair on them. If youve been outside in the early evening, you may have brought pollen in with you.
- Medication side effects: Some drugs that treat asthma, such as steroids and montelukast, can affect your sleep.
- Air thats too hot or too cold: Hot air can cause airways to narrow when you breathe in. Cold air is an asthma trigger for some people.
- Lung function changes: Lung function lessens at night as a natural process.
- Asthma is poorly controlled during the day: Symptoms that arent controlled during the day wont be better at night. Its important to work with your provider to make sure your asthma symptoms are controlled both day and night. Treating nighttime symptoms is very important. Serious asthma attacks, and sometimes deaths, can happen at night.
Are Asthma Medicines Safe When You’re Breastfeeding
Asthma medicines do get into your breast milk, but the amounts are very low and are safe for the baby. If you take high doses of certain asthma medicines, like theophylline, your baby may become irritable or have trouble sleeping. To help prevent this, take your asthma medicines 3 or 4 hours before the next feeding. Your provider and your babys provider can help you adjust your medicine schedule so you and your baby can get the health benefits of breastfeeding.
Last reviewed: November, 2013
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What Else Should I Know About Cold Air And Asthma
Every persons asthma is different. If cold weather triggers your asthma symptoms, you should treat it as you would any other flare-up.
Monitor the weather and try to stay inside on the very coldest days. Wear a scarf or face mask if you must go out. Guard your health so a virus doesnt cause an asthma flare-up. Humidify the air indoors to the level that makes your breathing most comfortable.
Follow your doctors direction for medication use. If you are prescribed an inhaler or other medication to manage your asthma, dont skip using it when youre feeling fine. Always follow the plan you have in place to avoid unnecessary flare-ups.
- Make sure all your prescriptions are current. Refill if needed.
- Your Asthma Action Plan should include how to handle asthma when you have no symptoms, if symptoms begin, and if they become severe. Be prepared for all eventualities.
- Keep a notebook to write down notes whenever symptoms worsen. This could shed light on new or old triggers. Keep track of your medication usage your doctor will appreciate a big-picture view.
What Are Asthma Symptoms
The first early warning sign of asthma is arguably the one most commonly associated with the disease: wheezing, or that squeaky sound in your chest when you have trouble breathing.
You might first only hear wheezing when youre breathing out, but as the asthma attack worsens, you might also hear wheezing when breathing in. Its also important to note that during a severe asthma attack, you might not hear any wheezing, which means not enough air is moving through the airways.
People with asthma can have one of any number of symptoms, says Neeta Ogden, M.D., an asthma specialist and immunologist in New York City. The most common tend to be chest tightness, shortness of breath, or feeling like you cant get in a good breath of air.
Heres a little bit more about what to expect from the signs and symptoms of asthma:
Shortness of breath is an obvious complication that happens when you cant get enough oxygen due to the way your airways and their surrounding muscles are reacting to asthma triggers, Sadia Benzaquen, M.D., a pulmonologist and associate professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells SELF.
When your airways narrow, you dont have as much space through which to breathe. As a result, you can experience wheezing, which may sound similar to the whistling sound you might hear if you were to breathe through a straw.
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Side Effects Of Relievers And Preventers
Relievers are a safe and effective medicine, and have few side effects as long as they are not used too much. The main side effects include a mild shaking of the hands , headaches and muscle cramps. These usually only happen with high doses of reliever inhaler and usually only last for a few minutes.
Preventers are very safe at usual doses, although they can cause a range of side effects at high doses, especially with long-term use.
The main side effect of preventer inhalers is a fungal infection of the mouth or throat . You may also develop a hoarse voice and sore throat.
Using a spacer can help prevent these side effects, as can rinsing your mouth or cleaning your teeth after using your preventer inhaler.
Your doctor or nurse will discuss with you the need to balance control of your asthma with the risk of side effects, and how to keep side effects to a minimum.
Asthma Treatments For Children
Treatment will depend on your childs symptoms, age and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Your childs health care provider may refer you to a pulmonologist. This is a doctor with special training to treat lung conditions. Your child may also be referred to an allergist. Both of these specialties have expertise in treating asthma. Your childs treatment is based on how severe his or her symptoms are and how well they are controlled. Treatment includes finding triggers and ways to avoid them. It will also include medicines. Asthma medicines include:
Medications for quick relief of symptoms:
- Bronchodilators . These medicines are used for quick relief to help open the narrowed airways. They help relieve coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. The most commonly used asthma medication, albuterol, is a bronchodilator.
- Combination inhalers with inhaled steroids and a certain long-acting bronchodilator . Sometimes, in specific cases, these medications may also be used for quick relief.
- Steroids . These are sometimes needed for short-term treatment of significant asthma flare-ups.
Asthma control medications to help control and prevent symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of exacerbations:
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What Are The Types Of Asthma
Its easy to think of asthma as one disease, but its actually an umbrella term for many different types, including:
The most common type of asthma, allergy-induced asthma is triggered by exposure to allergens like dust mites, pet dander, pollen, or mold, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Allergies and asthma tend to run together so youll find people with allergies who also have asthma, says Sonali Bose, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. For those people with allergic asthma, their allergies are oftentimes the trigger for their disease.
Its pretty normal to become winded during a workout, but if you cough, wheeze, and struggle to breathe within minutes of doing aerobic exercise like running you may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, which is more commonly known as exercise-induced asthma.
Triggered by irritants like smoke and medical conditions such as sinusitis, this type of asthma often comes on later in life than allergic asthma. Up to one in three people with asthma have non-allergic asthma2.
Even though pediatric asthma is the most common serious chronic disease in infants and children, according to the American Lung Association, it can be hard to diagnose.
That can make it confusing when it comes to diagnosis.