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Asthma - children


Alternative Names:

Pediatric asthma; Asthma - pediatric

Symptoms:

Breathing problems are common. They can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Gasping for air
  • Trouble breathing out (exhaling)
  • Breathing faster than normal

When the child is having a hard time breathing, the skin of the chest and neck may suck inward.

Other symptoms of asthma in children include:

  • Coughing that sometimes wakes the child up at night (it may be the only symptom)
  • Dark bags under the eyes
  • Feeling tired
  • Irritability
  • Tightness in the chest
  • A whistling sound made when breathing (wheezing). You may notice it more when the child breathes out.

Your child's asthma symptoms may vary. Symptoms may appear often or else develop only when triggers are present. Some children are more likely to have asthma symptoms at night.

Outlook (Prognosis):

With proper treatment, most children with asthma can live a normal life. When asthma is not well controlled, it can lead to missed school, problems playing sports, missed work for parents, and many visits to the doctor's office and emergency room.

Asthma symptoms often lessen or go away completely as the child gets older. Asthma that is not well controlled can lead to lasting lung problems.

In rare cases, asthma is a life-threatening disease. Families need to work closely with their health care professionals to develop a plan to care for a child with asthma.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your child's provider if you think your child has new symptoms of asthma. If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, call the doctor:

  • After an emergency room visit
  • When peak flow numbers have been getting lower
  • When symptoms get more frequent and more severe, even though your child is following the asthma action plan

If your child is having trouble breathing or having an asthma attack, get medical help right away.

Emergency symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish color to the lips and face
  • Severe anxiety due to shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Decreased level of alertness, such as severe drowsiness or confusion

A child who is having a severe asthma attack may need to stay in the hospital and get oxygen and medicines through a vein (intravenous line or IV).

References:

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Rockville, Md. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2007. NIH publications 08-4051. Available at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/asthgdln.htm. Accessed May 14, 2014.

Bush A, Saglani S. Management of severe asthma in children. Lancet. 2010 Sep 4;376(9743):814-25.

Liu AH, Covar RA, Spahn JD, Leung DYM. Childhood asthma. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 138.


Review Date: 5/14/2014
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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