Common ailments

Asthma (childhood)

Q: My 6 year old little boy regularly plays football and other sports, usually outside in very cold weather. I have recently noticed however that he has been getting short of breath very easily and is wheezing a lot immediately afterwards. My husband and I both have asthma I wonder whether our little boy might have asthma too?

A: There is every chance that your little boy may have developed asthma, especially as a child is more likely to have asthma if one or both parents have it. Also, most children develop the symptoms of asthma by the time they reach school age.

If your child has asthma then the airways of his lungs will be more sensitive than normal. If he is coming into contact with something that irritates his lungs (known as a ‘trigger’) his airways will narrow, the muscles around them will tighten and there will be increased production of mucus or phlegm. This will then make it more difficult for him to breathe and cause symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

Exercise, especially in cold weather, is a common trigger of asthma attacks and this could be the case with your son. Other common triggers include house dust mites, animal fur, grass and tree pollen.

Asthma is a long-term condition that can be effectively controlled in most children. It can, however, be difficult to diagnose asthma in children, especially as many other conditions can cause similar symptoms. There is no simple test to diagnose asthma but certain combinations of symptoms and signs will indicate to your GP that your child is likely to have asthma.

If you are worried about your son’s breathing then I’d recommend visiting your GP. If they suspect your child has asthma then they may suggest using an inhaler as a trial treatment. If use of the inhaler improves his symptoms then it is likely that he does have asthma.


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