Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(10):1969

See related article on childhood asthma.

What is asthma?

Asthma is when the tubes that bring air into the lungs get irritated and swollen. This makes the tubes get smaller, and it becomes hard to breathe.

How do I know if my child has asthma?

Your child may have asthma if he or she wheezes, coughs, and has trouble breathing. These symptoms may get worse when your child gets sick or exercises. Your child’s doctor will look for other reasons for these symptoms before diagnosing asthma.

Can my child’s asthma be treated?

Yes, there are two kinds of medicines that people with asthma can take. One kind is used to stop an asthma attack. This kind of medicine helps when your child has already started having trouble breathing. It opens up tight airways and stops the swelling.

The other kind of medicine is used to keep your child from having an asthma attack. The medicine keeps the airways from swelling. Your child will have to take the medicine every day. Your child’s doctor will help you decide which medicine is best for your child.

What can I do to stop my child from having an asthma attack?

Find out what makes your child’s symptoms worse, and try to keep him or her away from those things. Some things that can trigger an asthma attack are cigarette smoke, dust, pollen, pets, grass, and perfumes. Talk to your child’s doctor if exercise seems to make the asthma worse.

Will my child outgrow asthma?

Your child may not need medicine for asthma when he or she gets older. But only your child’s doctor can decide that it’s okay to stop the medicine. If you stop the medicine too soon, your child could have a serious attack. This can damage your child’s lungs, and it can be deadly.

How do I learn more about childhood asthma?

Talk to your doctor.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

American Lung Association

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