Asthma in Very Young Children

May is national asthma and allergy awareness month, and the Youth Clinic is helping families control the condition. Because of the chronic nature of asthma, its symptoms may surface at any time – even in toddlers. Diagnosing asthma in young children can be difficult, but it’s treatable.

While wheezing and coughing are the primary symptoms of asthma in patients of all ages, they’re also common symptoms of other conditions in children under the age of 5. Diagnostic tests pediatricians use for older children are also less accurate. Because of this, physicians typically need additional tools to diagnose asthma in young children, and may consider family history of the condition, use chest X-rays during wheezing or laboratory testing.

It’s important for parents to be aware of signs of asthma in young children. Watch for symptoms that may indicate your toddler or preschooler has the condition, including:

  • Coughing spells, particularly after exercise or after laughing. Children who frequently have moderate to severe bouts of coughing at night may also suffer from asthma.
  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing) that may indicate inflammation in lungs and air passages.
  • Chronic and persistent cough. This may not be as severe as coughing spells, but a recurring, nonproductive, dry cough can be an asthma symptom.
  • Tightness in neck, chest and shoulder muscles.

Asthma can begin at any age, but symptoms usually surface in children by age five. Because symptoms may indicate other illnesses, diagnosing asthma in young children can be difficult. Many of these symptoms respond to asthma medications, and may be treatable until your child is old enough to receive a diagnosis.

The Youth Clinic is committed to helping children of all ages manage and control their asthma. Our Healthy Lungs program provides families support in dealing with the condition.