Written by Dr. Srikanta J T
When a child struggles to catch their breath, it can be scary for not just the parent but for anyone and everyone. Breathing comes naturally to all living beings. A child should breathe normally and freely when they are playing or just carry on with their activities. They should not struggle or make a noise when they breathe in or out.
Wheezing is not an uncommon phenomenon in children. Many children have wheezing. Some get well in a few years and for some; they just learn to live with it. Just because a child is wheezing, doesn’t mean they need to have asthma. All wheezes are not asthma in children. Come, let’s find out more about wheezing in children.
In This Article
When a child’s airway is too small, they struggle to breathe normally. It can result in a high-pitched whistling sound as they breathe out, called wheezing. If you pay close attention, the noise will come from their chest rather than their nose, which happens when they have a cold or a nose block.
Some of the reasons for wheezing in children can be
It is important not to confuse a wheeze with breathing difficulty caused by a blocked nose or cold. A runny nose or blocked nose can make it difficult to breathe as well as cause noise during breathing. Wheezing is more severe and recurrent than just a nose block.
It is quite common to fear the worst when a child is unwell. Wheezing can be easily mistaken for asthma. Wheezing is in fact a strong symptom of asthma. So, it is important to distinguish your child’s wheeze. You need to identify if it is asthma or a viral wheeze.
A viral wheeze will present itself when your child has a severe cold or chest congestion. A severe cold, nose block, runny nose, fever, or various other triggers can cause:
Asthma in children is similar to asthma in adults. It is a condition where the child is unable to breathe freely. Exposure to certain triggers will cause inflammation of the child’s airways and even lungs.
It can be difficult to determine if the breathing difficulty your child is experiencing is just a wheezing episode, choking, or asthma. Periodic and long-lasting wheezes are typical symptoms of asthma.
The exact cause of this severe respiratory problem is not known. It could be environmental triggers, genetics, or a combination of both.
A cold or cough is very common in young children. Asthma is more than just a cold. Some of the symptoms you need to watch out for are:
So, your child is having difficulty breathing. You hear that tell-tale whistling sound when your child breathes. Could it be asthma or is it just a regular wheeze? Here is how you can differentiate between the two:
If you notice the following in your child, rush them to a doctor or at least call your doctor immediately. Following medical advice is important here.
If your child suddenly has an asthma attack due to some triggers in their environment, follow the procedure your doctor has taught you. If it is a severe attack, it is advisable to get it checked even if you are able to get everything under control.
Unfortunately, not all children with pediatric asthma can be cured. For some children, asthma can get better and clear itself by the time they are 5 to 11 years old. In most cases, even this is due to an effective asthma action plan that the parents and the doctor come up with, based on various symptoms and triggers in the child.
Once the doctor and the parents are able to identify the triggers and control them effectively, they can frame a long-term plan.
The doctor will prescribe maintenance medications such as:
These are anti-inflammatory drugs that doctors prescribe for long-term use. They help in controlling asthma and ensuring a wheeze does not become an asthma attack.
These can be used individually or in combination with other medications for asthma. A possible side effect of this medication is psychological reactions. If you notice your child is having a psychological reaction to the drug, rush them to the doctor immediately.
These inhalers use a combination of Corticosteroids in inhaling form and long-acting beta-agonist (LABA), to reduce the risk of severe asthma. However, the LABA should always be given in a combination only and never alone as it can worsen the asthma attack.
A daily medication that can help open up the airways. However, doctors don’t prescribe this medicine as frequently as they used to.
In case of severe asthma, the doctor might give the Nucala injection every four weeks. It can help children above the age of six when combined with their asthma maintenance plan.
Any breathing issue in a child is concerning. While wheezing can be temporary and occasional, asthma is a more severe kind of infection. You need to find a good doctor who can help your child with their asthma and come up with an effective maintenance plan.
If your child is having difficulty breathing normally, don’t immediately fear the worst or assume it to be asthma. Get a medical opinion after taking the tests concerned. It could be a wheeze that needs just a simple medicine and nothing long-lasting.
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No, all wheezes are not necessarily asthma. A child can have a simple viral wheeze due to a cold or a nose block. A viral wheeze can return every time your child gets a cold.
A blockage in their airway can make it difficult to breathe. This can be due to severe colds, environmental triggers, or even coughs.
Wheezing is a strong symptom of asthma. While wheezing is less severe and can be seasonal, which will go away on its own; asthma is more severe. Asthma is recurrent in nature and does not have a permanent cure.