Each year, nearly half a million kids end up in the emergency room because of asthma. Of those, about 300,000 children are hospitalized for one or more days because of their asthma symptoms. Asthma accounts for more childhood hospitalizations and emergency room visits than any other chronic childhood illness. It also accounts for more school absences than any other chronic childhood illness. When you add in the days that parents lose to work, the restrictions of activities due to asthma and the many related illnesses and conditions, asthma is one of the most emotionally and financially expensive childhood illnesses.
That figure doesn’t include all the children who suffer from what is referred to as “hidden asthma” – asthma that shows atypical symptoms, or symptoms that are misdiagnosed as colds, pneumonia or bronchitis. Because the common symptoms of asthma in kids can seem to be other things, kids with asthma often do not receive the treatment that they need. A child with mild asthma symptoms may be the child that ‘never met a cold he didn’t like’. He may be the child that wakes up night after night with coughing spasms, long after a cold is gone. The child who seems a little pale and pinched in the middle of a game of tag, or has to take a break to catch his breath may actually be having a mild asthma attack. Knowing the symptoms of asthma in kids, from mild to severe, can help you treat it appropriately and manage an asthma condition so that it doesn’t manage your child’s life.
Common Symptoms of Asthma In Kids
Wheezing is not the most common symptom of asthma, but it is the most telling. If you hear a high-pitched whistling sound when your child breathes in or out, then chances are that something is constricting or blocking the airway. Wheezing may occur in other disorders and illnesses too, but it’s a definite warning signal that something is wrong. A doctor can administer breathing tests to figure out how much oxygen is getting into the lungs, and decide if your child has asthma or another condition that will need longterm treatment.
Possibly the most common symptom of asthma in kids is coughing. In fact, may times, coughing is the ONLY obvious symptom of asthma in kids. In particular, if your child
. frequently has a cough long after other cold symptoms are gone
. often coughs after or during physical exercise
. coughs at night, usually in the early morning hours, without cold symptoms
. has a frequent, non-productive cough
. has a ‘rattly’ cough but produces no mucus
. has a cough accompanied by a wheeze
the cough may be a symptom of asthma.
The child may complain that their chest hurts, or that they can’t get enough air into their chest. Some children can’t put the feeling into words, though. Watch for visible signs of difficult breathing like flared nostrils, pursed lips, bent or hunched over posture. If the symptoms are severe enough, you may even notice the hollow of the throat moving in and out as they try to suck in enough air.
Other symptoms of asthma in kids include frequent bouts with upper respiratory infections, especially bronchitis.