I have a confession. I’m an asthma and allergy doc who almost missed this diagnosis with my own son.
My wife (an Emergency Room physician, no less!) and I couldn’t figure out why, for weeks, our 3-year-old son couldn’t shake a persistent cough. We listened to his chest with a stethescope many times but we never heard wheezing. Finally, we decided to treat him with albuterol, which is a reliever medicine that everyone with asthma should always have available. Albuterol provides rapid opening of the airways. Within 15 minutes, my son’s cough disappeared completely. He is now taking a daily controller medicine and has never been better.
That’s not to say every kid with a junky cough has asthma. But the more families that I meet who live with asthma, the more I learn how the symptoms of asthma can widely vary from child to child. There is much misinformation and many ‘myths’ out there as well. Many parents will tell me that their child does not have asthma since they are able to run and play without any problems. Or they never hear wheezing, and their child only coughs, which must mean they have something else as a cause of their symptoms. (Sounds familiar!)
The video below was created to address some of the most common misconceptions about asthma. The underlying cause of asthma symptoms is the same for everyone with asthma, which is chronic inflammation and tightening of the muscles surrounding the lower airways inside the lungs. However, not everyone with asthma will have the same types or pattern of symptoms. Many children with asthma will only cough and never have any wheezing. Others will never cough but develop sudden onset wheezing, along with shortness of breath or respiratory distress and require emergency room care or even hospitalization.
Asthma is a very complex disease that can be difficult to diagnose and treat, especially in young children. My wife and I learned this lesson the hard way. My experience with my son is just one of the many reasons I work to spread awareness about the symptoms of asthma and help families learn to live with asthma. For the latest allergy/asthma news, tips and other information follow me on Twitter @AllergyKidsDoc.
David Stukus, MD, is an associate professor of pediatrics in the Section of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Dave, as his patients call him, is passionate about increasing awareness for allergies and asthma.
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