Asthma & The Littles
Technically, asthma cannot “officially” be diagnosed until children are around age 5-6 years old. However it is often times suspected long before then especially if there is a family history. The reason the official diagnosis isn't usually given until age 5-6 is because that is generally the age when a child is cognitively able to understand and perform spirometry and other lung function testing. It definitely doesn't mean an infant or child doesn't have asthma before that age.
It can get a bit tricky with small children who are too young to talk and are unable to tell you that they are having trouble breathing.
There are some signs to watch for when a child’s asthma is acting up:
This is probably the easiest one to notice. Coughing spells and the inability for the child or infant to catch their breath. This may tend to get worse in the evening and at night.
This is the high pitched whistling sound that comes from the lungs. It happens when the lungs are inflamed and there is swelling along with mucus and it creates the whistling sound that is most often heard on exhalation although it can also be heard on inhalation as well. At time it can be heard audibly while others it can only be heard through a stethoscope.
If your baby or child is struggling to breathe you might notice the area between or just below the ribs or around the collarbone being sucked in when they inhale. Having to work extra hard to breathe in and out causes the muscles to work extra hard on the body.
When your child’s nostrils are flaring when they breathe it is a sign that they are really struggling. This is a natural reaction when a person is in respiratory distress because it widens the nostrils to allow for more airflow exchange.
Tachypnea comes from both English/Latin and greek roots and means fast breathing. Infants and children have faster breathing rates than adults. It is when you start to notice that your child or baby is starting to breathe faster than their normal is when it becomes a cause for concern. They will breathe faster to try to compensate for the tightness and/or lack of oxygen they are feeling.
Normal skin and lip/nail color is a nice pink hue. If it starts to turn dusky or blue it is time to seek medical attention right away. Blue or grey means lack of oxygen and is a true emergency and needs to be addressed immediately by emergency medical personnel.
As with adults, it is a good idea to have a plan in place if asthma is suspected with your child. If you do not have one definitely talk with your doctor about it at your next appointment! That way you will know exactly what to do if you notice your child having any asthma-like symptoms and when to call the doctor and seek medical attention. Children can get very sick very rapidly and it is very important to be diligent and know the signs to watch out for so you are prepared. Kids also bounce back quickly from illnesses and are quite resilient!!
How does your asthma change with the seasons?