Your Child's Asthma: First Office Visit
Your child has been coughing or wheezing, and you think 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 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 doctor who specializes in allergies and asthma.
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 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 blow into the tube
again. An increase in airflow suggests that asthma medicine may be helpful.
Finally, 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 accurately.
Always discuss with your child's healthcare provider the correct way to use an inhaler
in children. Young children should always wear a facemask and spacer when using an
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.