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Could my child have asthma?

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Diagnosing asthma in children

Asthma in young children is one of the most common causes of hospital admission and visits to the doctor in this age group. However confirming the diagnosis of asthma sometimes can’t be possible until that child is old enough to do the spirometry test. Wheezing and coughing are very common in little children, even if they do not have asthma.

Currently here is no single reliable test and no standardised diagnostic criteria for asthma.

What to expect

Doctors make the diagnosis of asthma when a person has breathing symptoms typical of asthma that come and go. They will generally :

  • ask about the symptoms
  • ask about general health, including whether you (or other family members) have allergies like eczema or hay fever
  • do a physical examination (e.g. listen to the chest, check inside the nose)
  • consider other possible causes of the symptoms
  • arrange a spirometry test

Spirometry test

A spirometer machine will provide evidence that sometimes air does not flow in and out of their lungs normally. Your child will have to blow into a tube as forcefully as theycan for a few seconds. The spirometer measures the amount of air pushed through the tube, as well as lung capacity and other measurements.

Children over 6 years old can do this asthma test, but is not used for preschool children or adults with certain medical conditions. Also if your child has a cold or flu, spirometry should be repeated later when they are well.

It is important to understand that before making the diagnosis, your doctor may order other tests or refer your child to a specialist.

Before you visit your doctor

  • Video (or audio -record) your child wheezing on your phone, if possible.
  • Write down how often the symptoms happen in the day or night, and which symptoms.
  • Try to remember whether symptoms change over time (during a day, week or year), and whether anything makes them worse (e.g. exercise, colds and flu, allergies).
  • Keep a note of whether wheezing only happens over a few days from time to time (e.g. when the child has a cold) or at any time (e.g. coughing and wheezing while playing or laughing). Watch your child’s chest when wheezing and tell your doctor if it looks different from breathing when there is no wheezing.

Kids with asthma can!

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