What Are the Symptoms of Asthma in Young Children?

By Shannon Blakeman

  • Overview

    Asthma is a lung disorder affecting the bronchial tubes. Inflammation causes the airways in lungs to tighten and interfere with breathing. Asthma affects children and adults but the majority of asthma symptoms show up before a child turns five years old. Currently affecting more than six million children, asthma is one of the most common diseases of childhood. There is no cure for asthma but asthma symptoms can be treated and prevented in young children.
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms vary depending on age and severity of a child's asthma. Two common asthma symptoms in young children are wheezing and coughing especially during a cold. Wheezing is a high pitched whistling noise heard when a child breathes out. An asthma cough is tight and dry and gets worse at night or during exercise. It is possible for children with milder cases of asthma to have a night cough as the only symptom. Retractions occur when the chest sucks in while a child is inhaling and is a symptom of a severe asthma attack. Asthma can be harder to recognize in infants. Symptoms seen in infants are shorter cries than normal, difficulties feeding, or labored breathing.
  • Triggers

    Asthma symptoms are triggered by allergies, air irritants, exercise and viral infections. A viral infection like a cold is the most common trigger in young children. Some children start wheezing or coughing for a week or more with every cold. Exposure to cigarette smoke, paint fumes or things like dust, pollen, mold, and animals can also trigger asthma attacks in some children.


  • Treatment

    There are different forms of treatment for children during asthma attacks. Medications must be prescribed by a medical doctor and are based on a child's age and severity of symptoms. Steroids, preventive medicines, and inhaled medications are common choices for children. Pediatricians can provide information and recommendations on preventive and emergency medications.
  • Prevention/Solution

    Keeping a child away from asthma triggers can prevent future asthma attacks. Avoid places with cigarette smoke or dust. Asthma proof the house and child's bedroom. Young children can benefit from having mattress and pillow covers on bedding to prevent dust mites. Check out asthma.com for more steps on how to asthma proof your home.
  • Considerations

    Asthma symptoms can be scary. Consulting a pediatrician with any questions or concerns regarding asthma is important because having asthma symptoms does not mean a child is asthmatic. Respiratory infections can also cause similar symptoms so diagnosing asthma can only be done by a medical doctor. Parents and caretakers also need to be careful to monitor children for asthma attack symptoms but not shelter the child too much. Young children can play, run, exercise and have fun even if they are asthmatic. Follow your pediatrician's advice and recommendations to ensure your child is safe, healthy and happy.
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