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What are the signs and symptoms of asthma in children?
The most common symptoms of childhood asthma are coughing and wheezing.
Coughing is typically non-productive and can frequently be the only symptom. When it is the only symptom, this is termed cough-variant asthma.
Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound produced by turbulent airflow through narrowed airways.
Other common symptoms include:
Poor exercise endurance
Symptoms are often worse with exertion or during the night. Night cough is also common. Symptoms are also typically exacerbated by viral upper respiratory infections, and these viral symptoms can linger for weeks in children with asthma, whereas age-controlled counterparts tend to recover much sooner. Symptoms can also have a seasonal variation, which can be due to environmental allergies. Tobacco smoke commonly aggravates symptoms, and secondhand tobacco smoke is not only a risk factor for developing childhood asthma, but also complicates asthma control. Children with asthma often have a history of recurrent bronchitis or even a recurrent croup-like cough.
The physical exam in asthma is often completely normal. Occasionally, wheezing is present. In an asthma exacerbation, the respiratory rate increases, the heart rate increases, and children can look as if breathing is much more difficult. They may require accessory muscles to breath, and retractions of the chest wall adjacent to the ribs are common. Younger children may become lethargic and less interested in feeding. It is important to note that blood oxygen levels typically remain fairly normal even in the midst of a significant asthma exacerbation.