Asthma is the most common respiratory or chest problems seen in children throughout the world including developing countries like India. Children with asthma get troublesome symptoms in the form of cough, wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness. In addition many children get frequent asthma attacks or flares. Asthma is difficult to diagnose in children more so in young kids or toddlers.
Why is asthma difficult to diagnose in Toddlers?
Diagnosis of Asthma is difficult in young children because of two reasons. Firstly, similar symptoms of cough, wheezing and difficulty in breathing can occur in young children without asthma. Secondly, it is difficult to perform lung function tests or breathing tests to confirm the diagnosis of asthma in children under 5 years of age.
What are the clues which suggest Asthma in young kids or toddlers?
Children under 5 years of age with the following symptoms are more likely to have Asthma:
- Symptoms of cough, wheezing and heavy breathing for more than 10 days with Viral colds (which usually would settle in 5-7 days)
- Frequent episodes of cough, wheezing and heavy breathing (more than 3 per year)
- Severe episodes requiring admissions to hospital
- Children having cough & heavy breathing on playing or laughing in between these episodes
- Children having associated allergic skin or dermatitis
- Children having associated food allergy
- Children with family history of allergies or asthma
What investigations can be done in young children to confirm the diagnosis of Asthma in children?
Young children suspected to have Asthma require careful assessment. They need to be evaluated for other causes of wheezing like gastro-esophageal reflux, vascular rings, tracheomalacia, cystic fibrosis etc. This requires detailed clinical assessment and Chest Xray. Children over the age of 3 years can also undergo a breathing test or lung function tests called Impulse Oscillometry. Few children might require further investigations like CT Chest scan and bronchoscopy. Children who are suspected to have Asthma require to be under the care of a pediatric pulmonologist.
Why is an early diagnosis of Asthma important?
Early detection and treatment of Asthma is extremely important. Early diagnosis helps in starting appropriate treatment. Appropriate treatment helps in reducing symptoms of cough, wheezing and difficulty in breathing. Proper asthma treatment allows kids to play and exercise without any symptoms. Asthma treatment also significantly reduces the “Asthma Attacks” and hence reduces emergency visits and hospital admissions. Asthma treatment improves the quality of life of the child and whole family. It also reduces unnecessary treatment with cough syrups, antibiotics and nebulizations.
If your young child is having a chronic cough, recurrent wheezing episode, problems during exercise and need for repeated nebulizations you need to consult a pediatric pulmonologist. Pediatric Pulmonologist would help in diagnosis and proper treatment of the child.