Symptoms of asthma can be mild or severe. Your child may have no symptoms; severe, daily symptoms; or something in between. How often your child has symptoms can also change. Symptoms of asthma may include:
- Wheezing, a whistling noise of varying loudness that occurs when the airways of the lungs (bronchial tubes ) narrow.
- Coughing, which is the only symptom for some children.
- Chest tightness.
- Shortness of breath, which is rapid, shallow breathing or difficulty breathing.
- Sleep disturbance.
- Tiring quickly during exercise.
If your child has only one or two of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean he or she has asthma. The more of these symptoms your child has, the more likely it is that he or she has asthma.
An asthma attack occurs when your child’s symptoms suddenly increase. Factors that can lead to an asthma attack or make one worse include:
- Having a cold or another type of respiratory illness, especially one caused by a virus, such as influenza.
- Exercising (exercise-induced asthma), especially if the air is cold and dry.
- Exposure to triggers, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, dust mites, or animal dander.
- Changes in hormones, such as during the start of a girl’s menstrual blood flow at puberty.
- Taking medicines, such as aspirin (aspirin-induced asthma) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Most asthma attacks result from a failure to successfully control asthma with medicines. By strictly following the doctor’s recommendations and taking all medicines correctly, it is possible in most cases to prevent these attacks from occurring. While some asthma attacks occur very suddenly, many get worse gradually over a period of several days.
Many children have symptoms that become worse at night (nocturnal asthma). In all people, lung function changes throughout the day and night. In children with asthma, this often is very noticeable, especially at night, and nighttime cough and shortness of breath occur frequently. In general, waking at night because of shortness of breath or cough indicates poorly controlled asthma.