Asthma in Children (cont.)
How is asthma diagnosed in children?
Asthma is often difficult to diagnose in infants. However, in older children
the disease can often be diagnosed based on your child's medical history,
symptoms, and physical exam.
- Medical history and symptom description. Your child's
doctor will be interested in any history of breathing problems you or your
child may have had, as well as a family history of asthma, allergies, a skin
condition called eczema, or other lung disease. It is important that you
describe your child's symptoms -- cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest
pain or tightness -- in detail, including when and how often these symptoms
have been occurring.
- Physical exam. During the physical examination, the doctor
will listen to your child's heart and lungs.
- Tests. Many children will also have a chest X-ray and
pulmonary function tests. Also called lung function tests, these tests measure
the amount of air in the lungs and how fast it can be exhaled. The results help
the doctor determine how severe the asthma is. Generally, children younger than
5 are unable to perform pulmonary function tests. Thus doctors rely heavily on
history, symptoms and examination in making the diagnosis.
Other tests may also be ordered to help identify particular asthma triggers.
These tests may include allergy skin testing, blood tests and X-rays to
determine if sinus infections or gastroesophageal reflux disease (a
gastrointestinal condition that causes reflux of acid stomach contents into the
esophagus or even into the lungs) is complicating asthma.
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