Is it Asthma?

What is Asthma? 

  • Asthma is a chronic* disease of the airways in the lungs.
  • The inside of the airways are sensitive and always a little swollen.
  • The symptoms of asthma are cough, wheeze (whistling noise in the chest), feeling short of breath and chest tightness.
  • Asthma symptoms happen when the inside of the airways become more swollen and make extra mucous and the muscles on the outside of the airways tighten.

How do you get Asthma?

  • The risks of developing asthma increase if:
    • a parent, brother or sister have asthma or allergies
    • child has eczema or other allergies
  • Some early childhood chest infections may help to "turn on" asthma.
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke early in life causes more asthma and allergies.

*chronic means it is always there, even when there are no symptoms

How will my Doctor diagnose Asthma? 

Your doctor will ask questions about:

  • when the problem first began
  • how often breathing problems occur
  • how long problems last
  • how your child looks when he/she is having trouble breathing
  • what seems to cause the  symptoms (eg. just colds)
  • if you notice symptoms at night 
  • if there are symptoms with any increase in activity
  • has the child had to go to the hospital for symptoms
  • medicines that have been used to treat symptoms and if they worked

What tests will be done? 

Your doctor will:

  • examine the child's nose, chest and skin
  • listen to the lungs and chest
  • using a stethoscope
  • ask older children to breathe out hard and long so any wheeze can be heard

Your doctor may also:

  • do a breathing test (spirometry) in older children to help confirm whether the child has asthma
  • try some asthma medicine to see if it helps the symptoms which can help make the diagnosis
  • do other special breathing tests
  • (eg. exercise challenge test)
  • refer you to an asthma specialist
  • for more tests ( eg. allergy testing)
  • do a chest x-ray to rule out other causes for symptoms (eg pneumonia)

What do I need to do?
  • Keep a record of when symptoms happen and how long they last.
  • Know how and when to use any asthma medicines your child is given.
  • Try to identify what causes the asthma symptoms.
  • Work with your doctor to form a treatment plan.
  • Regular follow-ups with the child's doctor are important to determine if medicines are working.

Asthma Allie Says:

"An Asthma Educator can help you learn more about asthma"


The Children's Asthma Education Centre ©2011