Detecting symptoms of asthma in children

Asthma often starts during childhood. Many people with asthma experienced the first symptoms by the age of ten, or even before the age of six.

If asthma is not well-controlled, it can interfere with children’s activities such as school, sports, play and sleep. In fact, childhood asthma is a leading cause of hospitalisation and emergency department visits, and it causes an excessive loss of school days annually. Thus, it is important to receive the correct diagnosis as soon as possible. In addition, uncontrolled asthma can lead to dangerous, even life-threatening, asthma attacks.

In babies and toddlers, it may be particularly difficult to identify whether they have asthma because episodic wheezing sounds and coughing are very common at that age during viral respiratory infections. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, do not hesitate to seek the advice of your paediatrician.

How to spot the early symptoms of asthma in your child

  • A recurrent or persistent dry cough that worsens at night or upon waking, often with a wheezing sound and difficulty in breathing, particularly if the child does not have a cold at the time.
  • Cough, wheezing sound, heavy breathing or shortness of breath when exercising, laughing, crying or when exposed to tobacco smoke .
  • The child does not run, play or laugh at the same normal intensity as other children.
  • The child experiences early tiredness during walks and wants to be carried all the time.
  • Risk factors for development of asthma, such as a family history of allergy.

Watch for these symptoms in your child and, if the diagnosis of asthma is confirmed, starting the appropriate treatment can keep his or her asthma under control, prevent severe asthma attacks and possibly reduce damage to growing lungs.


  1. Boyd M, Lasserson TJ, McKean MC, Gibson PG, Ducharme FM, Haby M. Interventions for educating children who are at risk of asthma-related emergency department attendance. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Apr 15;2009(2):CD001290
  2. Johnson SB, Spin P, Connolly F, Stein M, Cheng TL, Connor K. Asthma and Attendance in Urban Schools. Prev Chronic Dis. 2019 Oct 31;16:E148.
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