Your Child's Asthma: First Office Visit
Your child has been coughing or wheezing, and you’re wondering whether it might be
asthma. The first step toward finding out is scheduling a visit with your child’s
healthcare provider. As you prepare for this visit, you may be wondering what questions
the provider will ask or what tests and exams your child will need. With the information
below, you and your child can go to that first visit knowing more about what to expect.
Before starting the exam, your child’s healthcare provider will ask for background
information. The more details you can give, the better. Be ready to talk about:
Your child’s symptoms, including when they first appeared, how often they happen,
how bad they get, what makes them better, and what makes them worse
How the symptoms affect your child—for example, whether his or her symptoms limit
physical activity, interfere with sleep, happen at night, or cause absences from school
Any family history of asthma or allergies
The healthcare provider will listen to your child’s lungs with a stethoscope. Asthma
often produces unique breathing sounds, such as wheezing, although if your child is
not currently having symptoms, the lungs may sound normal. This does not necessarily
mean your child does not have asthma. In addition, the provider may look for signs
of allergies, such as skin rashes, swelling inside the nose, and nasal discharge.
If your child has never wheezed before, your provider may want to do a chest X-ray
of the lungs.
Spirometry is a quick and easy test used to assess how well your child’s lungs are
working. It's a very important part of diagnosing asthma. Here’s how it works:
Your child inhales deeply and then blows forcefully into a tube that is attached to
the spirometer. The spirometer calculates the amount of air the lungs can hold and
how fast it is exhaled.
Next, your child inhales a dose of asthma medicine. Then he or she blows into the
tube again. An increase in airflow suggests that asthma medicine may be helpful.
Finally, the provider might ask your child to perform some physical activity. The
test is repeated to see how the activity affects your child’s breathing and symptoms.
Although spirometry is a useful test, it may not work children younger than age 5.
Most children with asthma have allergies that make their breathing problems worse.
Your child's healthcare provider may order tests to check for allergies. If allergies
are found, you can take steps to limit your child’s exposure to those allergens. To
get allergy testing, you may need a referral to a specialist.