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Asthma is a very common condition that affects around 1 in every 11 children. Asthma symptoms typically include: difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and a tight chest. Symptoms will vary from person to person, and can develop at any age.

Childhood asthma is the symptoms of asthma in children before puberty. If you have a family history of asthma, then your child is more likely to have asthma symptoms at some point during their lives.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, asthma symptoms can be controlled effectively. However, for many people, asthma is a long-term condition that can recur. An ‘asthma attack’ is when symptoms of asthma dramatically worsen.

What are the symptoms of childhood asthma?

Most children with asthma will display symptoms before the age of 5. It can often be difficult to recognise that these symptoms are due to asthma in very young children, because children are usually unable to properly describe how they are feeling. Symptoms of asthma in children are sometimes mistaken for bronchitis or a bad chesty cold.

The most common symptoms of asthma in kids are:

  • coughing
  • wheezing, when breathing out
  • difficulty breathing
  • lots of chesty colds
  • complaining of a sore chest
  • lack of energy or weakness

If your child has one or several of these symptoms, you should take them to your local GP for a full diagnosis. If the symptoms are long-lasting or recur, it is likely that your child will have asthma.

You may notice that your child’s symptoms get worse at certain times, due to triggers like pollen, pets, smoke or dust.

What is the diagnosis for asthma in children?

If you think your child is showing symptoms of asthma, you should take them for a full diagnosis at your local GP surgery. Untreated asthma is very serious and can be life-threatening.

Childhood asthma is diagnosed by a discussion of a child’s medical history, symptoms and a short physical exam.

The doctor will be interested in whether or not there is a family history of asthma or allergies, lung disease, and whether or not the child has eczema. They will also want to hear about the child’s symptoms, and how frequent they are.

The physical examination is called a ‘spirometer’ test, which is a short test for lung function. This is usually recommended in children over the age of 5. The test is carried out using a small device called a peak flow meter, which measures how much air is in the lungs and how quickly the air is blown out.

Your doctor will decide whether or not further tests will need to be carried out, such as a chest x-ray or a test for allergies or asthma triggers.

How is childhood asthma treated?

There is no cure for childhood asthma, but asthma symptoms can be controlled or even reversed with proper treatment. Once a child has been diagnosed as having asthma, they will be recommended an appropriate treatment method.

Treatment tends to come in the form of inhalers, which are small pressurised containers with medicine to breathe into the lungs. There are two types of inhaler:

  • a reliever inhaler (to relieve asthma symptoms)
  • a preventative inhaler (to prevent future asthma symptoms and attacks)

Typically, treatment will involve regularly taking medicine through your preventative inhaler, sometimes daily. The reliever inhaler should be used when a child is having asthma symptoms or when they are experiencing an asthma attack.

Can a child ‘grow out’ of asthma?

For some children who are diagnosed with asthma, their asthma symptoms may get better or disappear completely during puberty. However, for others, symptoms will return after the teenage years and persist into adulthood.

If childhood asthma symptoms are severe, it is more likely to continue on later in life. Asthma is a chronic condition, which can be managed with treatment, but not cured entirely.

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