Knowing the Warning Signs of Asthma

You hear your child cough or wheeze. Is it a cold or could it be asthma? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference as both coughing and wheezing can be common symptoms of both. Recognizing the warning signs of asthma is the best way to get early diagnosis and treatment, which is vital to controlling the long-term effects of the disease. Unfortunately, nearly 4 million children under the age of 18 suffer with childhood asthma. Along with a brief explanation of asthma and its causes, here’s a list of symptoms that could be cause for concern.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease characterized by periodic attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tightness of the chest that produces a cough with sticky mucus. Attacks can be triggered by a number of variables, including allergens (pollen, house dust, and pet dander), certain drugs, cigarette smoke, the smell of certain chemicals, exercise, or even emotional stress. Any of these factors can cause the lungs to create inflammation of the bronchial lining, constriction or bronchial spasms.

What are the warning signs?

    • Coughing, especially if it occurs after crying or running or occurs more often at night
    • Increased wheezing/whistling noise as the child exhales or shortness of breath (but keep in mind that not all kids with asthma wheeze)
    • Interrupted sleep because of shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
    • Rapid breathing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chest tightness or pain
    • Feeling extremely tired or weak when exercising or playing with toys
    • Wheezing or coughing after exercise
    • Feeling tired, irritable, or moody
    • Symptoms of a cold or allergy, such as sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, congestion, or headache (although not caused by asthma, these cold and flu symptoms might trigger asthma)
    • Frequent episodes of heartburn

In some cases, children have also reported other warning signs, such as headache, wanting to be alone, getting quiet, being easily upset, glassy eyes, dark circles under the eyes, itching of the throat or chin and fast heartbeat. Warning signs are not the same for everyone, so always consult your child’s pediatrician to be sure.

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