Children under 5 years old who wheeze or show other signs of breathing trouble, should be evaluated by a doctor. However, just because you, as a parent, suffer from asthma or allergies, don’t assume that your child does too. Many childhood illnesses affect breathing, sometimes making it difficult to determine the cause. To help you understand your child’s situation, let’s consider the facts about asthma and children under 5 years old.
Diagnosing Asthma in Children Under 5
Many people find it interesting when they learn that children under 5 cannot be officially declared asthmatic. Medical scientists have tried to find a way to diagnose asthma in children as young as 3 since the 1980s, but they continue to remain uncertain.
Common symptoms of lung or bronchial illnesses include wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing. Studies show that 40% of children wheeze before they turn 3. Since children develop these symptoms when they become ill, it makes it difficult to actually diagnose asthma.
Asthma symptoms similar to other types of common childhood sicknesses make it tough to distinguish one from the other. So, all you can do (with the help of a doctor) is to evaluate a child’s symptoms and make an educated guess. That said, there are a few signs that your child might suffer from asthma.
When is There a Possibility of Asthma in Children Under 5?
Signs of asthma can start early, even if there is no way to officially diagnose asthma in children under 5. Keep the following factors in mind when evaluating your child’s symptoms.
1. Family History
Asthma is a genetic condition, so if you suffer from asthma, or there is a known family history of asthma, it may be present in your child. Pairing this information with poor lung health may indicate your child’s problems are chronic. Knowing your family history provides doctors with information that’s helpful in determining your child’s condition.
2. Worsening Symptoms
Young children cannot describe exactly how they feel, so they need an observant parent who can help them figure out what is going on inside them. Look for symptoms that persist and don’t seem to “let go” of your child. Here are some questions to consider while trying to figure out if your young child has asthma.
- Does your child wheeze? Wheezing creates a high-pitched whistle caused by tightened airways.
- Does your child persistently cough? A cold often produces a cough, but if there isn’t evidence of a cold, you may want to seek professional help to see if asthma is the cause.
- Do strong emotions like crying or laughing cause your child difficulty breathing? This symptom shows tightening bronchial tubes. This has a serious potential for an asthma attack.
- Does your child seem to pant while performing normal activities? Panting shows that a child has difficulty catching their breath.
- What time of day does your child deal with these breathing issues? If these attacks occur early in the morning or at night, this points to the possibility of asthma.
Worsening symptoms are a sign that more is going on than just normal childhood illness. Scientists have determined that if a child has experienced three or more episodes of wheezing and shortness of breath, that asthma could be the main culprit.
3. Evidence of Allergies
Airborne allergens affect everyone differently. Some children may not experience any adverse effects from them, while others may experience breathing problems and reduced lung function. If your child shows symptoms of allergies, you could ask your doctor to perform a skin or blood test. These tests will show if your child has allergies. Allergies make children more susceptible to developing asthma.
Managing Asthma Symptoms in Children Under 5
Time will tell for sure whether or not your child has asthma. In the meantime, take steps to help them control it.
1. Prevent triggers.
Triggers cause asthma attacks. These triggers vary from cold air to tobacco smoke. Parents need to familiarize themselves with the different types of asthma triggers and how to protect their children against them.
You may need to make household adjustments to prevent asthma triggers. Dusting to remove dust mites, removing cleaners with irritating chemicals, and ventilating humid areas all help make a home safer for an asthmatic child.
Triggers vary from person to person. This makes it important for you to simply observe what seems to worsen your child’s asthma and seeing what you can do to remove that trigger from their environment.
You should take note that triggers may change from time to time. If you notice changes in your child’s triggers consult your doctor to see if their medication plan needs an adjustment.
2. Observe patterns.
Oftentimes triggers form patterns. This includes the time of day that triggers take place and what exactly sets your child’s asthma off. If you figure out the pattern of these triggers, you then have the information you need to put some guidelines in place to prevent attacks.
3. Plan ahead with an asthma action plan.
The Mayo Clinic recommends writing out an asthma action plan. This plan helps you to know exactly what to do if an asthma attack occurs. Write out this plan so that your child can carry it on them or easily place it in their belongings.
The asthma action plan should contain basic information like their name and any medications they take. The plan should also include what to do when an asthma attack occurs and when to seek medical attention. Writing this plan out will give you peace of mind knowing that you have a course of action in case of an emergency.