Could My Child Have Asthma?

Wheezing and Colds

My 8-month-old wheezes, but my pediatrician won't give me a firm diagnosis. Why?

"Pediatricians are reluctant to diagnose children under 2 with asthma, because frequently babies who wheeze with respiratory infections stop wheezing after 2 years old," says Dr. White.

What does wheezing sound like? "Look for high-pitched whistling, especially when your child exhales," says Asriani Chiu, MD, assistant professor of allergy at the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee. "If you hear a lower-pitched grunting, particularly when the child inhales, that is more likely a stuffy nose than asthma."

Your daughter's wheezing is more likely to be transient if it occurs only with colds and if neither Mom nor Dad has allergies, eczema, or asthma. Conversely, her symptoms are more likely to prove chronic if she wheezes between colds and has a family history of asthma or allergies, notes Dr. White.

But only time will tell if your daughter's symptoms will persist or go the way of her bottles and binkies. In the meantime, however, your pediatrician may treat your daughter's symptoms with asthma medications (even without the official diagnosis), since these drugs will help her breathe more easily, regardless of the cause.

Whenever my 2-year-old catches a cold, his cough lingers for weeks. Should I be worried?

If your child regularly has a dry, persistent cough after a cold, or if he coughs without a cold, especially at night or after a burst of activity, tell your pediatrician, says Dr. White. Another warning sign: shortness of breath (notice if your child's nostrils flare or if the muscles between his ribs retract when he breathes).

Children who are old enough to verbalize their symptoms may complain about a funny or tight feeling in the chest. It's important to report these symptoms to your child's doctor, particularly if there's a family history of allergies or asthma, says Dr. White.

If your son has asthma and were to experience a serious attack, he might begin to breathe very rapidly or have difficulty crying or speaking. If this happens, or if he is wheezing and suddenly stops (which could indicate a closed airway), or if his skin, lips, or fingernails begin to turn blue, call 911.

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