Video: Spotting asthma symptoms in your childWhat asthma symptoms look like in children and how to spot them
Transcription for 'Spotting symptoms of asthma in your child'
0:14 If you’re worried your child might have asthma, but you’re not sure whether to talk to your GP about it, this video shows the things to look out for. There are four main symptoms of asthma - coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.
0:34 Children get coughs all the time. So how do you tell if it could be asthma? When your child gets a cough is a good clue. Children with asthma often cough at night time, in the early morning or after exercise. Another sign is if your child has had a cough for a long time and it just won’t go away.
0:57 A wheeze is a whistling sound in your child’s chest, usually when they breathe out. Every child’s wheeze is different and they’re often hard to hear. Even your nurse or doctor might need to use a stethoscope! So, if you can’t hear a wheeze, but your child has other symptoms, I’d still recommend talking to your doctor about asthma.
1:15 Another sign of asthma is chest tightness. This one’s tricky to spot. In my experience, children with chest tightness often rub their tummy or chest. If they can talk, they might say things like, ‘I have a tummy ache’ or ‘my chest hurts’.
1:56 The final symptom to look out for is breathlessness. It’s normal for children to get a bit breathless when they’re running around and playing. So how do you tell if it’s something to worry about? Firstly, you might notice they’re breathing fast, or that they using lots of their body when they breathe – for example shrugging their shoulders up and down. When they’re playing, you might notice they get more out of breath, or stay out of breath for longer, than other children. They might get breathless even when they’re not exercising or being active. And finally, they might start avoiding exercise because they don’t like the symptoms.
2:19 As a parent, it is easy to feel that you’re worrying too much, or that you’ll be bothering your doctor. But, I would always want to know if one of my patients was getting these symptoms. The right treatment could help settle your child’s cough, wheeze, tight chest or breathlessness – so it really is worth getting them seen.
2:26 If you have more questions about asthma, you can always WhatsApp me or one of my nurse colleagues at Asthma UK.
2:35 Contact an Asthma UK nurse on WhatsApp 07378 606 728
Ask your doctor about asthma if your child or baby has one or more of these tell-tale symptoms
Ask your GP about asthma if your child sometimes has one or more of these symptoms. A combination of signs and symptoms makes asthma more likely.
- A cough that won’t go away or keeps coming back.
- A night-time or an early morning cough – this is common in children with asthma.
- A cough after doing exercise or being active.
- A cough when excited or laughing.
- A high-pitched whistling sound, usually when your child’s breathing out. Wheezing is not the same as other chesty noises. It can sometimes be hard to hear so your child’s doctor may need to listen for it with a stethoscope.
- A ‘tummy ache’ is how children might describe it.
- They might rub their tummy or chest.
- Look to see how fast your child is breathing and listen to how their breathing sounds.
- Watch to see if they’re using lots of their body when they breathe – for example shrugging their shoulders up and down.
- Does your child get out of breath playing, or stay out of breath for longer?
- Does your child avoid activity because they get breathless?
The good news is that the right treatment can settle your child’s symptoms. So, book an appointment with your GP.
It’s OK to ask for an appointment as soon as possible. To explain the seriousness, you could say things like “My child isn’t breathing well.” Mention your child’s age too.
You can also call 111 if you’re worried about your child’s symptoms.
“As a parent, it is easy to feel that you’re worrying too much, or that you’ll be bothering your doctor. But I would always want to know if one of my patients was getting these symptoms,” says respiratory nurse specialist Debby Waddell.
Call 999 if your child is struggling to breathe
Look out for these signs that your child is struggling to breathe:
- Their tummy sucking in
- Their ribs standing out
- Obvious sucking in at the front of their throat
- Not being able to finish sentences or eat because they’re so breathless
- The reliever inhaler, if your child has one, is not working
- They’re unusually quiet or agitated.
Remember, you know your child best and it’s always best to call 999 if you’re worried.
Call 999 if your child is struggling to breathe or their reliever inhaler, if they have one, is not working.
Coughing and wheezing in babies and toddlers could also be a sign of bronchiolitis, a respiratory virus common in children under two years old. Find out more about bronchiolitis at our sister charity the British Lung Foundation.
You can get advice and support about asthma symptoms in your child by calling a respiratory nurse specialist on our Helpline, 0300 222 5800 (9am-5pm; Monday-Friday). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.
Last updated August 2021
Next review due August 2024