11 answers

What Are the Signs/symptoms of Asthma in a Baby/toddler?

What are the signs/symptoms of asthma in a baby or toddler?

Also can someone describe what is wheezing? how do you know a wheeze when you hear one?

Just curios, thanks!

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My little boy, who is 23 now, was diagnosed with asthma when he was a baby. His showed up as colds all the time. He had a cold constanly and he never got rid of it. When he would be really still or asleep and you listened to him breathe, the wheezing sound would be any sound at all that you hear. Normally you wouldn't hear them breathe but you can hear a sound when they are asleep. You will hear it when they breathe out mostly
The dr can do a breathing test on them and tell if they have it or not.

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Hello Uly

If you suspect your baby or toddler has asthma, please take them to the doctor immediately. When a child wheezes, they are already in respiratory distress. As an adult who suffers from asthma, I can tell you first had, I feel pain, dizziness and fear from the lack of oxygen. In an infant, the lack of oxygen can be extremely harmful.

As for what it sound like, when the child breaths in or out you will hear a distince "wheeze" sound. Your child breathing will probably be faster, because they are getting less oxygen. They may also gasp.

I hope your child does not have asthma, but please have it checked. A simple wheeze can turn into a major issue very fast.

R. Magby

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When my son had RSV I could tell when he was having trouble breathing by watching his chest and looking for pulling. You can see the skin go sharply under the rib cage as he struggles to breath.

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If you suspect asthma, please work with your child's doctor until you are satisfied with the answer. There are a number of different things that could be going on, that are associated with different treatments.

Asthma results from lung inflammation, and is often worse at night, and often flares up with cold air. Asthmatics can breath in, but have a hard time emptying their lungs (not sure how visible this really is, or if a child can describe it), and would have a hard time blowing out a candle or into a horn. Many asthmatics describe the sensation as 'having an elephant on the chest'. It is not a runny nose, although allergies and colds can certainly aggravate asthma, and allergies can be treated as well as asthma - but differently.

Wheezing is a descriptive term, and it really sounds like a wheeze. In asthmatics it comes from the lungs, not the nose. (My kid sometimes sounds a bit wheezy, but due to a congested nose, thus my differentiation.)

If your kid is showing strong respiratory distress - nostrils flaring, skin around the ribs sucking in, any blueish tinges - go to the ER.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

My little boy, who is 23 now, was diagnosed with asthma when he was a baby. His showed up as colds all the time. He had a cold constanly and he never got rid of it. When he would be really still or asleep and you listened to him breathe, the wheezing sound would be any sound at all that you hear. Normally you wouldn't hear them breathe but you can hear a sound when they are asleep. You will hear it when they breathe out mostly
The dr can do a breathing test on them and tell if they have it or not.

1 mom found this helpful

My granddaughter has had asthma since she was a baby. An attack starts with a faint breathy, rattly sound coming from her throat and then advances to an obvious tight sound that indicates she is having difficulty getting air in and out. If left untreated her breathing becomes increasingly more rapid with a loud rattle. Her face becomes drawn and whitish in appearance. If she doesn't get treatment you can see the spaces between her ribs going in and out. If we've waited this long she is in immediate need of emergency room attention.

Unless you've already had a diagnosis and a rescue inhaler the child should go to the ER once you're aware she's having trouble breathing and you know it's not only the result of a plugged up nose.

Unfortunately, one time her mother waited to the point that her breath smelled of acetone which meant that her body's cells wear breaking down. This is life threatening.

My granddaughter's asthma, as a baby, was always caused by a cold. Thus she had a definite rattle sound to her breathing. We learned to always give her her rescue inhaler at this first sign when she had a cold. Babies may rattle with a cold and not have asthma but not my granddaughter.

A clue that the rattle is asthma is that the babys breathing difficulty increases as does her coughing. At some point the coughing stops because she doesn't have enough air.

You can place your ear against their back and hear a rattle in the lungs if the asthma attack has continued for awhile. (perhaps 10 minutes) The length of time it takes for sounds to be heard in the lung by your ear depends on the seriousness of the attack. As we became more experienced I realized that I didn't need to wait for sounds in the lung to know it was asthma.

My granddaughter is now 9 and recognizes the onset of an asthma attack before anyone else can hear her wheeze. I recognize it by the drawn, tired expression on her face. Her complexion also looks whiter and the circles under her eyes darken. If she tries to walk she feels and looks short of breath. She also coughs.

I think that with a baby or toddler the difficulty in breathing always increases within a short period of time to the point that treatment is necessary. I did spend time with a teen who refused to take her medication and she wheezed with any exertion which meant she was audibly wheezing and frequently coughing most of the time.

My granddaughter had several trips to the ER before we were able to give her the right treatment quickly enough. She was unable to use an inhaler at 8-10 mos and needed a nebulizer. I had had no experience with asthma when this first started and perhaps, like you, didn't recognize the symptoms. We should have purchased a nebulizer after her first attack but no one suggested that would help keep her out of the ER. Each time she had difficulty breathing we went to the ER where they used a nebulizer.

If you see a baby or toddler having difficulty breathing even tho their nasal passages are clear, take her immediately to the ER. An asthma attack is different than difficulty breathing because of just a cold. You can see the difference once it's happened.

Addition: I agree with Megan except you need to go to the doctor before the distress is strong. The symptoms of stomach sucking in, blue tinge, and nostrils flaring is the extreme. At this point the child or toddler is not getting enough oxygen to maintain a healthy brain and body. A short period of this apparently does not result in permanent damage but why risk it? And.....the baby/ child is feeling the stress and is most likely scared.

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If you at all suspect asthma please consult a doctor. It can be very serious and life threatening. If your child is breathing really hard, meaning if you look at their chest and their chest sinks in at the sternum then there is a problem. Look for sinking in with breaths at the stomach also. Wheezing sounds raspy so listen carefully. I can't stress enough to consult a doctor if ever your child seems to be having to try too hard to breath.

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My son used to sound like he was having trouble breathing when he was sleeping. He also had a wheezing sound that could be heard across the room. It sounded like breathing with something partially blocking his airway. I asked the doctor every appt from his 6 week to his 6 month check up. He always told he that it is very rare for a baby to have asthma. At his 6 month check up, the doctor finally listened to me and got him an inhaler. The way that I described it was that he sounded like a 700 pound man trying to climb a flight of stairs. Now though, as a toddler, his asthma attacks are boughts of uncontrollable coughing.

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I am sure you will get many answers on the symptoms of asthma, but I found some very interesting articles on asthma and toddlers - and how today more and more kids/toddlers/babies are being diagnosed with it than in the past, and things we can do to avoid our kids getting it:


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my pediatrician says that wheezing is whenever a baby is having trouble breathing & creating a sound like they are stressing ot breathe. If you're worried at all, that's cause enough to see your doctor. One of my new favorite baby gizmos is the Nosfrida http://www.nosefrida.com/ it clears a baby's nose when they have a cold. My doc also recommended steaming showers & using a humidifier in his room all night long. It helpedso much when he was having trouble breathing with a cold. But if it's something else, your doc will be able to tell you.

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My son was diagnosed at 18 months with Asthma after we changed drs. If I had known sooner, it would of saved my poor son a ton of discomfort. They had done a few chest xrays oin him and of course they showed nothing (asthma does not show on xrays). They would put him on antibiotics. This went on for at least 6 months. Finally after switching Drs he saw someone new and she picked up on the wheeze and put him on liquid albuterol. Unfortunatly a few days later he got really sick and that is when they realized he has asthma (after asking me a bunch of questions).
Yes you would know a wheeze when you hear it, it doesnt sound like a normal breath, kinda of squeeky is the best way I can describe it. Does your child cough alot? More so laying down? Does he/she tire easy? Does he/she look like they are having a hard time breathing?
If you are concerned about your child having possible asthma please talk to the Dr.

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My daughter does a lot of wheezing and I recently took her into see her pediatrician for her 4 mo check up. She says that babies breath primarily through their nose and haven't quite gotten the hang of breathing through their mouths yet...hence the wheezing. I'm not sure about toddlers though, but though this would help. :D

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