Asthma in children can often be diagnosed based on medical history, symptoms, and a physical exam. Keep in mind that oftentimes when you take your infant or older child to the doctor with asthma symptoms, the symptoms may be gone by the time the doctor evaluates the child. That’s why parents are key in helping the doctor understand the child’s signs and symptoms of asthma.
Medical History and Asthma Symptom Description: Your child's doctor will be interested in any history of breathing problems you or your child may have had, as well as a family history of asthma, allergies, a skin condition called eczema, or other lung disease. It is important that you describe your child's symptoms -- cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or tightness -- in detail, including when and how often these symptoms have been occurring.
Physical Exam: During the physical examination, the doctor will listen to your child's heart and lungs and look for signs of an allergic nose or eyes.
Tests: Many children will also have a chest X-ray and for those ages 6 and older, a simple lung function test called spirometry. Spirometry measures the amount of air in the lungs and how fast it can be exhaled. The results help the doctor determine how severe the asthma is. Other tests may also be ordered to help identify particular "asthma triggers" for your child's asthma. These tests may include allergy skin testing, blood tests (IgE or RAST), and X-rays to determine if sinus infections or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are complicating asthma. Learn more about diagnosing asthma. A new asthma test that measures the amount of nitric oxide in the breath (eNO) may now be available in your community.
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