Why won't my pediatrician confirm that my baby has asthma?

Q: My baby wheezes a lot, but my pediatrician won't confirm for sure that it's asthma. Why?

A: Many pediatricians are reluctant to diagnose asthma too early because frequently babies who wheeze with respiratory infections in infancy stop after age 2. Also, be sure your baby's really wheezing -- it'll sound like a high-pitched whistling sound, especially when she exhales. If you hear more of a low-pitched grunting when your baby inhales, it may be related to nasal symptoms, like a stuffy nose.

Your baby's more likely to grow out of the wheezing 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. Only time will tell if your child's symptoms will persist or go the way of her bottles and binkies. In the meantime, however, your pediatrician may treat your baby's symptoms with asthma medications (even without the official diagnosis), since these drugs will help her breathe more easily, regardless of the cause. --Marguerite Lamb

Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2005. Updated 2009