Asthma and Young Children

Children can develop asthma at any age, even in the first year of life. Asthma is more common in children whose parents or brothers/sisters in the family have asthma, allergies or an allergic skin problem such as eczema.

Asthma and Young Children

Exposure to tobacco smoke in early life causes more asthma, allergies and colds. Symptoms such as cough, trouble breathing or wheezing may be asthma. These symptoms may occur with colds or chest infections. Colds that do not seem to go away, may be asthma.

How Is Asthma Diagnosed?

  • There is no good test to diagnose asthma in young children.

  • Asthma is mainly diagnosed based on your child’s history, pattern of symptoms, and your family’s medical history.

  • Asthma medicines may be given for a trial period to see if your child’s breathing improves.


If Your Child Has Asthma:

  • Identify your child’s triggers and avoid them when possible.

  • Know about your child’s asthma medicines and how to give them correctly.

  • Regular visits with your doctor are important to help you control the asthma.

  • Have your doctor complete a written Asthma Action Plan. As soon as you notice asthma problems, check your plan for any changes in treatment.

  • Use an asthma diary or journal to keep track of changes in your child’s asthma.

  • Your doctor may refer you to an asthma specialist for further tests (eg. allergy tests).

  • Learn as much as you can about asthma. Ask about where asthma education is available in your area.

What Triggers Asthma?

A trigger is anything that makes asthma worse. Many asthma triggers increase the swelling in the airways. It takes a while for this swelling to heal. The most common asthma triggers for children under 3 years of age are colds and tobacco smoke. After a cold, asthma symptoms and swelling in the airways can last for several weeks. Allergies to pets, house dust mites and mold are more common in children over 2 years of age.


Watch for early warning signs of worsening asthma such as:

  • Getting a cold

  • Coughing or wheezing during sleep or upon waking

  • Coughing or wheezing with activity, laughing or crying

  • Decreased energy level

  • Needing Reliever medicine (blue inhaler) more than 3 times a week for symptoms


Early warning signs let you know that problems are starting. When you see any early warning signs, follow your Asthma Action Plan.