Many young children may have wheezing episodes at some time, but this doesn’t mean they’re asthmatic. It’s the pattern of symptoms that develops over time that shows whether a child has asthma or not. It can be quite difficult to spot asthma in very young children for three reasons. First, a third of all children will have at least one attack of wheezing during their first five years. Most of these children will never have breathing problems again, so doctors probably will not want to use the term asthma. Second, doctors use a variety of words to describe asthma, such as wheezing, wheezy bronchitis, chesty coughs, or colds. Third, a “peak-flow meter,” the device normally used to measure how well the lungs work, can usually be used only with children who are over five years of age.
Before reaching a diagnosis the doctor should wait to see how the pattern of the child’s symptoms develops. It is this pattern, not the individual symptoms, that dictates a diagnosis of asthma. Typical symptom patterns are as follows:
- Repeated attacks of wheezing and coughing, usually with colds.
- A persistence cough over a period of weeks to months
- Many restless nights caused by attacks of wheezing or coughing.
- Wheezing or coughing between colds, especially after exercise or excitement, or when the child is exposed to cigarette smoke and allergens such as pollen or house-dust mite droppings.
Many people believe that wheezing is the only symptom of asthma, but for young children a dry and irritating cough may be the only symptom. Healthy children do not cough persistently.
Children under the age of one year are most likely to suffer from wheezing, which is set off by virus infections such as with a cold or runny nose. In fact, viruses are an almost universal trigger for young children. Breastfeeding may help improve a child’s resistance to viruses.
TRIGGERS: If your child does suffer from asthma, you will find that certain substances or activities can trigger an attack. Once you have identified triggers. You should take measures to protect your child from coming into contact with them.
Smoking: Help your child avoid cigarette smoke because it’s especially harmful to growing lungs and can trigger asthma attacks. Never smoke around children and encourage visitors to your home not to do so. If you do smoke, and you are planning to have another child, you should give up smoking before becoming pregnant to reduce the risk of your baby developing asthma.
Cold air: You may notice that your child coughs or wheezes initially ongoing outdoors. Keeping your child indoors, however, is not the answer. A dose of medication just before going out may be all that’s need.
Activity If laughter, excitement, or exercise triggers asthma in your child, it is a sign that the asthma is not properly controlled. You should consult your child’s doctor, since it is very important for children to join in the fun and enjoy themselves. The symptoms of activity-induced asthma may be prevented if your child takes a dose of asthma medicine beforehand. Your child should warm up before playing games – several 30-seconds sprints over five to ten minutes will allow her to exercise for children who are suffering from asthma and it seldom provokes an attack unless the water is very cold or heavy chlorinated.
Allergies: If there is a family history of allergies you should minimize your child’s exposure to potential allergens, such as mites, pollen, and fur.
Diagnosing asthma: A doctor will need to monitor the pattern of child’s symptoms over time before he can diagnose asthma.