Your Child's Asthma: First Office Visit
Is your child coughing or wheezing? It might be asthma. The first step to finding
out is scheduling a visit with your child’s healthcare provider. As you get ready
for this visit, you may wonder what questions the provider will ask or what tests
and exams your child will need. The information below can help you and your child
know 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, if the symptoms limit physical activity,
interfere with sleep, happen at night, or cause your child to miss 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. But if your child is not
currently having symptoms, the lungs may sound normal. This does not mean your child
does not have asthma. If your child has never wheezed before, your provider may want
to do a chest X-ray of the lungs. Your child's healthcare provider will also decide
if medicines or an Asthma Action Plan is needed.
Your child's provider usually looks for signs of allergies, such as skin rashes, swelling
inside the nose, and nasal discharge. The provider may discuss triggers or allergens
that may cause your child to have symptoms. Your child may be referred to a healthcare
provider who specializes in allergies and asthma.
Spirometry is a quick and easy test used to assess how well your child’s lungs are
working. Spirometry is sometimes performed by primary care providers. However, many
times, only asthma specialists will perform this test. It's a very important part
of diagnosing asthma. Here’s how it works:
Your child breathes in 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 breathed out.
Next, your child breathes in a dose of asthma medicine. Then they wait for the medicine
to work. Then, they blow into the tube again. An increase in airflow suggests that
asthma medicine may be helpful.
In some cases, the provider might ask your child to do some physical activity. The
test is repeated to see how the activity affects your child’s breathing and symptoms.
Spirometry is a useful test. But children younger than age 5 may not be able to do
the test correctly. They may need other tests. Or the provider may prescribe medicine
for your child to try and see if symptoms improve.
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, your child may need a referral to a specialist.
Other health problems can cause symptoms similar to asthma. These conditions include
acid reflux, nasal polyps, allergies, pneumonia, or another type of infection. If
your child's healthcare provider thinks your child has a different condition, they
may do other tests.