Children with asthma are usually diagnosed with asthma within their first five years. At this age, children may not be able to communicate about their symptoms. At times, it might appear that a child is fussy when having a mild asthma attack. Parents should be educated on symptoms of asthma and discuss breathing concerns with their pediatricians early to ensure proper treatment. Some asthma symptoms can be very subtle or masked as another diagnosis.
Some changes in breathing are normal – common cold, exercise, anxiety can all trigger changes in breathing. Asthma symptoms are not always easy to catch; they can be very subtle changes. If your child presents any of these abnormal breathing symptoms, then it is important to reach out to your doctor for an asthma diagnostic test. These symptoms are also commonly seen in children with repeat bronchitis and allergies.
- Coughing at night or while sleeping
- Wheezing while exhaling
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in neck or chest
- Chest colds
- Family history of asthma or allergies
Asthma Diagnostic Testing
Since asthma symptoms are similar to those of allergies, bronchitis, your physician might need to perform confirmatory testing to ensure the correct diagnosis. To confirm an asthma diagnosis, physicians will perform a series of different tests. Asthma and allergies are often genetic diseases, so a family history of asthma or allergies can be useful in confirming an asthma diagnosis. Physicians will ask families for their medical history, perform peak flow measurements, and may test for allergies.
To test for asthma, physicians administer a “peak flow measurement.” A peak flow measurement is administered using a small handheld instrument that is commonly found in pediatric offices. The patient will forcefully exhale into the mouthpiece instrument. The instrument will measure the rate and volume of the exhale. The rate and volume of the exhale will tell the physician how open the airways are. Some physicians may send their patients home with a peak flow measurement tool and ask patients to perform the test at different times and record the data. This data will help the physician provide an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.
Asthma and allergies often go together. Asthma is often triggered by environmental causes like air quality, pollution, weather, dust, or pet hair. If a physician suspects that allergies might be involved in triggering asthma, then an allergy specialist will need to be part of the treatment plan. To test for allergies, physicians will perform skin and blood tests to see how the body reacts when exposed to irritants.
Asthma is a chronic illness that will require specialized treatment and ongoing care. Some children eventually grow out of their asthma, and others continue to have symptoms into adulthood. However, with the proper treatment, children with asthma are expected to live everyday, healthy lives. If you suspect your child might need asthma-related care, reach out to Newport Children’s Medical Group. Our team of pediatric specialists is here to help care for your child.