Diagnosis of Asthma in Children

The diagnosis of asthma is usually based on the symptoms and signs of a child, family history and results of the lung function testing.

What are the signs and symptoms of Asthma in children?

Children with asthma presents with persistent cough or chronic cough, repeated episodes of wheezing, and breathlessness. Many children have repeated episodes also known as “flares” or “attacks”. These episodes may occur 2-3 times a year to 8-10 times a year. Each episode can last for 5-7 days but can be prolonged upto 3 weeks. In between these episodes children can be absolutely well but some children can have persistent cough especially with exercise or activity. Older children also complain of chest tightness or breathlessness.

Most children will have additional allergic manifestation like allergic nose or allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and atopic eczema. Many children will also have a family history of allergies and asthma.

How do we confirm a diagnosis of Asthma in children?

The diagnosis is confirmed by performing a lung function test. It measures how much and how fast your child can move air into and out of your lungs. It also helps in assessing the degree of the disease and response to treatment.
Lung function tests for asthma can be of two types:

  • Spirometry: It requires the child to blow out forcefully into a spirometer. A computerized sensor, which is part of the lung function machine, will calculate the results. These are later presented as graphs and values. Spirometry can be performed in children over 5 years of age.
  • Impulse Oscillometry: Impulse oscillometry is a newer lung function testing method which does not require children to blow out forcefully. The test can be performed in normal breathing, which makes it very comfortable for younger children. Children just need to breathe normally in a pipe to which a mouth piece is attached. Impulse Oscillometry can be performed in children over 3 years of age.