Children and asthma

Publications you might find useful:

 What are the symptoms of asthma?

 The usual symptoms of asthma in children are:

  • wheezing, or a whistling noise in the chest
  • getting short of breath
  • coughing, particularly at night and after exercise
  • feeling tight in the chest – sometimes children will describe this as their chest hurting or even a tummy ache.

Asthma symptoms may not be present all the time and may come and go. With the right medicines, taken properly and as prescribed, your child should be able to lead a full life without symptoms.

However, if you're a smoker you'll find your child's asthma is harder to control. Being around tobacco smoke will also make your child's asthma symptoms worse. You can find helpful information on how to stop smoking here.

Asthma is a serious condition, and if not treated properly can lead to asthma attacks, which can be life threatening.

Diagnosing asthma

There isn’t a single test your child can take to tell if they have asthma. To help make a diagnosis, your doctor or nurse will do a number of things. They will ask about your child’s symptoms, and might ask you to keep a record of them along with what seems to make them better or worse.

The doctor or nurse may also listen to your child’s chest to find out if there are any wheezy sounds. If you child is old enough, they may use a peak flow meter to measure how well their lungs are working.

Asthma is more likely to be diagnosed if your child has more than one of the typical symptoms (coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness), particularly if these are:

  • frequent
  • worse at night or early in the morning
  • in response to a trigger
  • when your child doesn’t have a cold.

Children under the age of two 

If your child is under the age of two it’s difficult to tell if they have asthma because:

  • nearly one-third of very young children will have wheezing at some point. Over time, most of them will stop wheezing as their airways grow; however for others early wheezing can be a sign they will get asthma in later childhood or adult life.
  • it isn’t easy to measure how well a young child’s lungs are working. A peak flow meter is used for older children, but is unsuitable for children under the age of six.

Asthma is a lifelong condition, but it shouldn't stop your child leading a full and active life if you learn how to manage it and we've used leading experts to draw together all the information you'll need as your child grows up with asthma, whether you want to know about medicinescontrolling your child's asthma through an action planpreventing attacks and what to tell your child's school, nursery or friends. There are also plenty of free resources available to order.

We have a lively discussion forum, where you can chat and share experiences and concerns with other people in similar situations.

Family looking at Asthma UK materials on a sofa Looking after my child’s asthma

My Asthma is a free self-management resource designed for children aged around 6-11. You can also access our action plans for children under 5 on this page.

Click here to read more

Child reading Asthma UK leaflet  Medicines and your child

There are two main types of asthma medicines, called relievers and preventers, and they work in different ways.

Click here to read more

Advice for very young children with asthma Inhalers for younger children

Children under five will need to use an aerosol inhaler with a spacer. It’s important you and your child know the correct way to use their inhalers and spacers to ensure they are taking in all their asthma medicine.

Click here to read more

Children with asthma at nursery  Nursery and childcare

Finding the right childcare can often be difficult for parents, and sometimes even more so for parents and carers of children with asthma.

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Schoolteacher smiling Your child at school

It's important to work in partnership with your child's school if your child has asthma.

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