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Top Five Pediatric Asthma Questions, Answered

Breathing is something we take for granted until it becomes difficult to do. For people living with asthma, it can feel like your chest is being squeezed, causing shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. 

In children, asthma often appears before a child is five years of age. It is the single most common chronic lung disease in kids and, according to the CDC, affects more than six million children in the US alone. The reason it is so prevalent in kids is that the bronchial tubes in a child’s lungs are more narrow than adults. When illness or allergies strike, they are more prone to inflammation, making breathing difficult. 

Recognizing the symptoms of asthma in kids is vital for every parent. The symptoms of asthma are similar to other illnesses; therefore, it can be challenging to diagnose accurately. Here are five of the most common pediatric asthma questions, answered by our pediatric experts

What are the symptoms of asthma in children?

The symptoms of asthma in children usually first appear before five years of age. Symptoms can begin suddenly or can last for days or weeks. Commonly, symptoms recur, which is an indication it may be asthma. Symptoms also may flare up when exposed to triggers, such as allergens. Parents should watch for the following symptoms:

  • Coughing – especially at night
  • Trouble breathing or rapid breathing 
  • Frequent chest colds
  • Wheezing or whistling sound when exhaling
  • Chest tightness

My child coughs when she runs or plays sports. Does she have asthma?

Perhaps. Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is a condition where the symptoms of asthma flare-up only during or just after exercise. Symptoms of EIA include coughing after returning from playing outside, inability to run for more than a few minutes without stopping, getting winded, or quickly tiring during exercise. People with EIA usually begin having symptoms within ten minutes of beginning exercise. However, some children have symptoms begin after stopping the activity. Cold weather can exacerbate symptoms, causing the bronchioles in the lungs to narrow (bronchoconstriction), which makes it harder to breathe. Depending on the severity of symptoms, pretreatment (medicine before exercise) may be prescribed. If this doesn’t control symptoms, long-term medication may be recommended. 

What causes asthma in children?

The exact cause of asthma is unknown. However, some children are genetically predisposed to having asthma. It is also believed to be impacted by environmental factors. Triggers that can cause symptoms to flare-up include allergens, such as dust, animal dander, mold, pollen, and cockroaches. Infections of the airways can also trigger asthma, as can environmental irritants, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, fragrances, and cold air. As previously mentioned, exercise can induce asthma symptoms, too, as can stress. 

Will my child grow out of asthma?

Usually, people who have asthma have it for life. That said, the symptoms associated with asthma may improve with age, especially when asthma triggers are avoided or minimized. 

What is the best treatment for my child’s asthma?

There is no cure for asthma. However, symptoms can be managed by avoiding or limiting triggers and taking medication. The type of treatment prescribed depends on symptom severity and frequency. It may include quick-relief treatment, such as an inhaler, and long-term control, such as a daily medication to treat inflammation of the airways. 

Early treatment for asthma is critical. If you suspect your child may have asthma, schedule an appointment with their pediatric provider to discuss your concerns.