Ask a Doc: My child is often short of breath. Is it asthma?

Ask a Doc: My child is often short of breath. Is it asthma?

Q: My child seems to be easily out of breath when running, swimming or doing other physical activities, and sometimes wheezes and coughs. Could it be asthma?

Dr. Thomas Dovidio, a pediatrician with Advocate Children’s Medical Group answers:

Pediatric asthma is the most common chronic disease among children and infants, yet it can be difficult to diagnose. Asthma causes inflammation and sensitivity of the small airways of the lungs. Some common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Wheezing (whistling sound) when breathing
  • Coughing
  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Complaints of chest hurting or tightness
  • Getting short of breath easily
  • Feeling weak or tired

Some children have symptoms only when exercising or playing a sport. This is commonly referred to as exercise-induced asthma.

There are many different causes or triggers for pediatric asthma, including exposure to smoke, allergies, viral illnesses, weather changes, exercise and a family history of asthma, to name a few.

If you think your child may have symptoms of asthma, it is important to see your family physician or pediatrician right away. At your first visit, the provider will ask you questions about your child’s symptoms, such as how long they have been happening and what triggers them. He or she will also ask you about any known allergies and environmental factors in your home or other places where your child spends a lot of time. If needed, he or she may also enlist the help of an allergist or pulmonologist who have specialized training in this area.

If your provider diagnoses your child with asthma, he or she will develop a plan to help you manage the disease. A large amount of asthma symptoms can be managed through lifestyle and environmental modifications.  There are also many different treatment and medication options that are available to help control asthma.

The diagnosis of asthma does not mean your child will not be able to participate in sports, sing in the choir, play in the band, etc.  With appropriate modifications and control, along with consistent follow up with the primary care provider, children with asthma should be able to not only participate, but thrive in whatever activities they choose.

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About the Author

Tonya Lucchetti-Hudson
Tonya Lucchetti-Hudson

Tonya Lucchetti-Hudson, health enews contributor, is public affairs director for Advocate Medical Group and Advocate Physician Partners.