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Is there a family history of asthma or allergies?
Let your child’s doctor know if anyone in your family has asthma or allergies. Include information about any food allergies, hay fever, hives and eczema. Children who have breathing difficulties at night, respiratory infections, regular exposure to smoke, pet dander, or who cough after running or crying, should be screened for asthma. Do you hear a high-pitched whistle or wheeze when your child has trouble breathing? Does your child cough often? Does your child become short of breath? Does he or she complain about difficulty breathing or chest tightness?
All can be asthma symptoms in children. When kids are five and older, doctors can diagnose and monitor asthma with the same breathing tests they use for adults. These tests measure how much air your child can quickly exhale – an important sign of how well the lungs are working.
Because younger children may not be able to cooperate with these tests, asthma is more commonly diagnosed based on a repeat history of breathing problems from common triggers.
When your child has asthma, it is a chronic condition. Symptoms can flare up at any time. Still, there is a lot you can do to reduce flare-ups. By monitoring for symptoms and following a personalized Asthma Action Plan, most children can do all the enjoyable things they want to do.
Triggers cause the lungs to overreact, but they aren’t the same for everyone. Often, triggers are allergens such as dust mites or pollen. They can also be cold or flu viruses, exercise, cigarette smoke and even strong fragrances. Some common triggers like pets are year-round issues. Dry air and cold weather can be seasonal or location based. Knowing your child’s triggers and reducing exposure to them helps prevent asthma flare-ups. Your child’s doctor is your partner in diagnosing and treating your child’s asthma. The doctor will consider your child’s age, weight and abilities when developing a treatment plan.
Proper treatment can make a big difference in your child’s life. At home, your child may sleep better when symptoms are under control. At school, he or she may miss fewer days due to asthma. On the playground or sports field, your child may have greater stamina and be more willing to join in the fun.
Keep in mind that regular follow-up visits are needed to make sure your child doesn’t outgrow his or her treatment.
Originally published: 6/29/2016; Revised 2022
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