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How To Tell If Baby Has Asthma

What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma In Babies

How to Tell if Your Child Has Asthma

In infants and toddlers, it may be hard for parents, and even doctors, to recognize signs and symptoms of asthma. Bronchial tubes in infants, toddlers and preschoolers are already small and narrow, and colds and other illnesses can iname airways, making them even smaller and more irritated.

Asthma symptoms will vary from child to child. The challenge with infants is that they cannot tell you how they are feeling.

Babies with asthma may experience difficulty breathing you may notice their bellies moving more when inhaling or exhaling and the nostrils of their nose may flare out. You might also notice:

  • Wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Blue tint to skin and fingernails

How To Notice The Signs Of Asthma In Your Child

There are various signs your child may have asthma, and these signs may also be found in unrelated illnesses. Pay attention to the following breathing-related issues, and make an appointment with your doctor to get a professional diagnosis.

  • Breathlessness Look for fast breaths and body movements that indicate forced breathing.
  • Coughing A recurring cough thats usually experienced in the morning or late at night.
  • Wheezing Wheezing is a whistling sound that accompanies each breath.
  • Chest Tightness This usually involves stomach or chest pains.

Notice and record when these signs of asthma are occurring. Symptoms are usually found in the morning or at night. There may also be an obvious trigger such as pollen that can indicate allergic asthma. If these symptoms keep on coming back, you must speak to your doctor.

How To Know If Your Baby Has Asthma

This article was co-authored by Laura Marusinec, MD. Dr. Marusinec is a board certified Pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where she is on the Clinical Practice Council. She received her M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin School of Medicine in 1995 and completed her residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Pediatrics in 1998. She is a member of the American Medical Writers Association and the Society for Pediatric Urgent Care. This article has been viewed 2,296 times.

Asthma is one of the most common medical conditions among people of all ages, and more than ten percent of small children have it. Even so, much about asthma is still a mystery, and diagnosing the condition is particularly difficult in babies who cannot express their symptoms or follow instructions for breathing tests. Diagnosing asthma in babies usually combines a process of elimination, tracking symptoms, and evaluating risk factors. Your babys doctor must play a central role in determining the presence of asthma, but you as a parent can help identify signs of the condition in your child, largely through close observation of the baby and evaluation of his or her risk factors.

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Specific Symptoms In Babies

Asthma can be difficult to diagnose in infants.

Asthma can be difficult to recognize in babies because it can resemble other respiratory illnesses.

Also, a baby cannot always convey how they are feeling or that they are having difficulty trying to breathe.

Symptoms of asthma in babies include:

  • blue tint to the face, fingernails, or lips, which can indicate poor oxygenation
  • breathing very fast
  • coughing at night or even when performing routine activities
  • problems eating or tiring out
  • a whistling sound called wheezing that is sometimes audible from far away

Asthma can closely resemble other medical conditions in babies, such as:

Another condition that may cause some symptoms similar to asthma in infants is laryngotracheomalacia. Babies who are born with this condition have a weakness in the cartilage just under the vocal cords.

As a result, they may breathe noisily in the upper airways and trachea, which might sound like asthma. As a baby gets older, these tissues usually become firmer and less likely to collapse.

The primary difference between asthma and some of the above illnesses is that an infant may continue to experience asthma symptoms. Asthma is a chronic condition that can affect a person throughout their life.

Even after an acute illness, they may have persistent symptoms of hyperreactive airways, meaning that the airways in their lungs become smaller and inflamed more easily than those of others. This pattern can aid doctors in making an asthma diagnosis.

How Do I Know If My Infant Or Child Has Severe Asthma

Asthma in babies: Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment

If you are concerned that your infant or childs asthma may be severe, observe their behavior for the indicators below and speak to your healthcare provider right away.

Observe your infant for any of the following indicators of Severe Asthma:

  • Sits up, refuses to lie down
  • Stops feeding
  • Pale or bluish-looking skin anywhere
  • Irritable
  • Rapid breathing
  • Using accessory muscles of breathing-in, drawing of muscles at the neck when breathing it may look like the skin is being tugged in. If you see this, your child must be assessed by a healthcare provider.

Observe your child for any of the following indicators of Severe Asthma:

  • Pale looking or bluish looking skin- anywhere
  • Breathless
  • Irritable
  • Peak flow less than 50% of personal best
  • Using accessory muscles of breathing-in, drawing of muscles at the neck when breathing it may look like the skin is being tugged in. If you see this, your child must be assessed by a healthcare provider.

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How Is Asthma In Children Treated

Based on your childs history and how severe the asthma is, the healthcare provider will develop a care plan called an Asthma Action Plan, which describes:

  • When and how your child should use asthma medication.
  • What to do when asthma gets worse.
  • When to seek emergency care for your child.

Make sure you understand this plan and ask your childs provider any questions you may have. The Asthma Action Plan is important to the success of asthma control. Keep it handy to remind you of your childs daily asthma management plan and to guide you when your child develops asthma symptoms. In addition to following the Asthma Action Plan, try to limit exposure to asthma triggers.

Asthma medications that adults and older children take can also safely be prescribed for toddlers and younger children. In the case of inhaled medications, a different delivery device based on the childs age and ability may be required.

If your infant or child is having asthma symptoms that require treatment with a rescue inhaler more than twice a week, your provider may prescribe a daily controller therapy .

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When To Go To The Hospital For An Allergic Asthma Attack

The first step in treating an allergic asthma attack is to use a rescue inhaler or other rescue medication. You should also move away from any source of allergens that might be triggering the attack.

If symptoms dont improve after using rescue medications, or you have severe symptoms, call for emergency medical help. In the United States, that means dialing 911 to call for an ambulance.

Severe asthma attacks share many symptoms with mild to moderate asthma attacks. The key difference is that the symptoms of a severe allergic asthma attack dont improve after taking rescue medication.

You might wonder how you can tell the difference between symptoms of a severe attack that requires emergency treatment versus a mild attack that you can treat on your own. Always seek emergency medical attention if your rescue medication doesnt seem to be working. You should go to the hospital if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • intense shortness of breath and difficulty speaking
  • very rapid breathing, coughing, or wheezing
  • straining chest muscles and difficulty breathing
  • a bluish color in the face, lips, or nails
  • difficulty inhaling or exhaling completely
  • gasping
  • confusion or exhaustion
  • fainting or collapsing

If you use a peak flow meter a device that measures your peak airflow you should go to the hospital if your readings are low and arent improving.

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What You Need To Know About Wheezing

Other things to know about wheezing include that:

  • You cant always hear wheezing without a stethoscope until it gets very bad, so if you suspect that your child might be wheezing, dont wait until you can easily hear the wheezing before you seek medical attention.
  • Stridor is a sound that children with croup often make and it is often confused with wheezing.
  • Wheezing is not the only symptom of asthma. Some children only have a cough when they are having an asthma attack.
  • If your childs wheezing is not getting under control, a referral to a pediatric pulmonologist might be helpful.

How Can We Avoid A Trip To The Er

How to tell if your child has Asthma

Well-managed asthma is rarely life-threatening. Taking asthma medicines as prescribed can help prevent severe asthma flare-ups and the need for emergency care.

Be sure to schedule and keep follow-up visits with your doctor and to track your childs asthma.

Its important to monitor your childs asthma using the written asthma action plan your doctor helps you create. This plan will outline day-to-day treatment, symptoms to watch for, and step-by-step instructions to follow during a flare-up.

Taking asthma seriously and working to manage it can make it less likely that your child will need to go to the ER.

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Seeking A Medical Diagnosis

  • 1Seek immediate help for a possible asthma attack. Asthma attacks can be serious at any age, but can be particularly dangerous for newborns and infants. Their tiny airways can become quickly blocked off during an asthmatic episode. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and seek medical help quickly, especially if you know that your child is at an elevated risk for asthma. Watch for important signs such as:XResearch source
  • Grunting when breathing or feeding.
  • Repeated or ongoing waves of coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
  • Fast breathing, especially if accompanied by a labored breathing effort. In a baby, you may see significant chest contractions that cave in the abdomen and expose the ribs. The nostrils might also flare widely.
  • The baby seeming very tired or very agitated due to having to work harder to breathe.
  • Paleness or redness in the face, or blue skin under the fingernails or the lips.
  • Crying that becomes soft, short, or stops altogether.
  • A refusal or inability to feed.
  • 2Accept that diagnostic options for babies are limited. It is difficult to diagnose asthma in children under six and especially babies because most of the tests require deep, directed inhaling and exhaling. An accurate diagnosis also benefits from the patient being able to describe his or her symptoms, which babies cannot do. In many cases, diagnosing asthma in babies involves a process of elimination and educated guessing by the doctor.
  • What Are The Signs My Child May Have Asthma

    Although 80-90% of asthmatics are diagnosed as children, its not always easy to know if this disease is whats making your child unwell. Young children arent always able to articulate their symptoms, and asthma in children can look different than asthma in adults.

    To help you know whether or not your child could have asthma, here are the top signs to look for:

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    Side Effects Of Asthma Medication

    If you are worried about possible side effects from asthma medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop or reduce doses of medication for your child without speaking with your doctor. Common side effects from inhaled asthma medication:


    • sore mouth and throat
    • fungal throat infections.

    Using a spacer reduces the risk of these side effects. as does rinsing the mouth with water after using an inhaler.


    • fast heart beat.

    Making Er Trips Less Stressful

    Asthma in babies and children

    Planning can make trips to the ER less stressful for you and your child. Here are some tips to try:

    • Know the location of your closest ER. If theres a childrens hospital ER nearby, go there and have the address and phone number handy .
    • If you have other kids, try to make arrangements with a relative or other caregiver who can take them in an emergency. But dont let the lack of a babysitter delay your trip to the ER. Someone can always come to the hospital later to pick up your other kids.
    • Take a copy of your childs asthma action plan or a note with the names and dosages of any medicines your child takes to share with the medical staff at the ER.

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    When To Take Your Child To Er

    It can be upsetting and worrying to see your child struggling to breathe due to asthma.

    The key signs that you need to take your child to ER or call an ambulance include:

    • They are coughing and wheezing a lot
    • They are complaining that their chest hurts or feels tight some children may also say their tummy hurts
    • Theyre getting no relief from their reliever inhaler
    • Theyre having difficulty breathing
    • Theyre unable to walk or talk easily.

    Try to keep your child as calm as possible and get them to sit up lying down will make things worse. If you are waiting for an ambulance to take you to hospital, get your child to use their reliever inhaler with their spacer. Take one puff every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a total of 10 puffs.

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    Improving Life For A Child With Asthma

    While asthma will inevitably pose challenges for you and your child, it doesnt need to be debilitating. To address this health condition, speak with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and receive the appropriate medication. Your doctor can discuss an action plan that will minimize the impact of asthma in your childs life.

    Understanding the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and exercise is also important, while speaking to the school ensures teachers are kept informed. Recognizing allergic triggers can reduce the chances of an asthma attack and of course, make sure your child has their inhaler at all times.

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    Treatment For Asthma Emergencies In Children

    An asthma attack can quickly become an asthma emergency, but if you take quick action, you can reduce the risk of this happening. So, if the symptoms of an asthma attack appear, follow your childs asthma action plan.

    If your child is experiencing a severe or life-threatening asthma attack, call triple zero for an ambulance and then start asthma first aid.:

    • Sit the child upright.
    • Give 4 puffs of reliever medication , taking 4 breaths for each puff. Use a spacer and mask if one is available.
    • Wait 4 minutes if the child still cannot breathe normally, give 4 more puffs.
    • Continue to give 4 separate puffs of reliever medication, taking 4 breaths for each puff, every 4 minutes until the ambulance arrives.

    Diagnosing Allergies In Children

    How To Tell If Your Child Has Asthma

    According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 40 percent of children suffer from some type of allergy and this number appears to be on an upward trend. Anyone can technically be allergic to anything but common allergens for children include:

    • Foods such as nuts, shellfish and milk
    • Animals and insects such as dogs, cats and bees
    • Medicines and their ingredients such as antibiotics and sulfites
    • Environmental factors such as grass, pollen, dust and ragweed

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    Childhood Asthma Risk Factors

    Asthma is the leading cause of long-term illness in children. It affects about 7 million kids in the United States. Those numbers have been going up, and experts arenĂ¢t sure why.

    Most children have their first symptoms by age 5. But asthma can begin at any age.

    Things that can make a child more likely to have asthma include:

    • Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke before or after birth
    • African-American or Puerto Rican descent
    • Being raised in a low-income environment

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    • Dont have written asthma action plan from your doctor
    • Use an inhaler, but dont have a spacer
    • Miss more than 1 day of school per month for asthma
    • Asthma limits exercise or sports
    • Asthma attacks wake child up from sleep
    • Use more than 1 inhaler per month
    • No asthma check-up in more than 1 year
    • You have other questions or concerns

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    Will My Child Grow Out Of Asthma

    Asthma is a long-term condition. The majority of children with asthma have less troublesome asthma as teenagers. Symptoms can appear again in adulthood. If your child has severe asthma, it is more likely to continue or return in later life.

    Your child should learn about asthma and gradually take over responsibility for its management, as they become a teenager, with support from you.

    When To Call 999

    Allergies &  Asthma in Babies

    Dont delay getting the help you need if your child has an asthma attack. Call 999 if your childs reliever isnt helping, or youre worried at any time.

    While you wait for an ambulance, your child can repeat step 4 above.

    An asthma attack is a real emergency, and could be life-threatening, says nurse specialist Debby Waddell.

    Getting the right help when your child needs it is so important, to make sure your child is treated quickly. Never think youre wasting anyones time.

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    What You Need To Know About Your Childs Asthma

    There are many things to think about and plan for when your child has asthma. It is important to learn as much as you can about the condition. Your doctor and pharmacist are there to help you. Talk to them about any concerns you may have about your childs asthma. To manage your childs asthma effectively, it is important to know:

    • the pattern of their asthma
    • their asthma medications what they do and how to help your child take them properly
    • what to do if they have an asthma attack know and follow asthma first aid.

    Make sure you have an updated written asthma action plan and understand how to use it.


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