Is it Asthma?

What is Asthma? 

  • Asthma is a chronic* disease of the airways in the lungs.
  • In asthma, the airways are sensitive and always a little swollen.
  • When asthma gets worse, the inside of the airways become more swollen and make extra mucous and the muscles on the outside of the airways tighten.
  • The symptoms of asthma are cough, wheeze (whistling noise in the chest), feeling short of breath and chest tightness.

*chronic means it is always there, even when there are no symptoms.

How do you get Asthma?

  • You can not catch asthma from another person.
  • A child may get asthma if:
    • a parent, brother or sister have asthma or allergies
    • the child has eczema or other allergies
  • Some early childhood chest infections may help to "turn on" asthma.
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke early in life causes more asthma and allergies.


Is it Asthma? 

To diagnose asthma, your doctor will ask questions about:

  • when the problem first began
  • how often breathing problems occur
  • how long problems last
  • how your child looks when he/she is having trouble breathing
  • what seems to cause the symptoms (eg. just colds)
  • if you notice symptoms at night 
  • if there are symptoms with activity
  • whether the child had to go to the hospital for symptoms
  • medicines that have been used to treat symptoms and if they worked

What tests will be done? 

Your doctor will:

  • examine the child's nose, chest and skin
  • listen to the lungs and chest using a stethoscope
  • ask older children to breathe out hard and long so any wheeze can be heard

Your doctor may also:

  • do a breathing test (spirometry) in older children to help confirm whether the child has asthma
  • try some asthma medicine to see if it helps the symptoms, which can help make the diagnosis
  • do other special breathing tests (eg. exercise challenge test)
  • refer you to an asthma specialist for more tests (eg. allergy testing)
  • do a chest x-ray to rule out other causes for symptoms (eg. pneumonia)

What do I need to do?
  • Keep a record of when symptoms happen and how long they last.
  • Try to identify what causes the asthma symptoms.
  • Know how and when to use any asthma medicines your child is given.
  • Work with your doctor to form a treatment plan.
  • Regular follow-ups with the child's doctor are important to determine if medicines are working.

Asthma Allie Says:

"An Asthma Educator can help you learn more about asthma"


The Children's Allergy & Asthma Education Centre ©2011, 2014