While millions of people suffer from asthma, diagnosing and treating asthma in infants and toddlers can be quite a challenge. For starters, infants and toddlers have much smaller airways than older children and adults, making even the tiniest of blockages a potential issue. While we still don’t know what specifically causes asthma, if a child has a family history of asthma or allergies, a specific allergy or had a mother who smoked during pregnancy, they have a higher chance of getting asthma early in life.

Warning signs

Without the ability to effectively communicate their symptoms, it’s important for parents and caregivers to be on the lookout if their infant or toddler is showcasing the following symptoms: fast breathing, working harder to breathe, panting with normal activities, wheezing, persistent coughing, difficulty sucking or eating, tiredness, disinterest in normal activities, very pale or blue coloring in the face, lips or fingernails.

Taking action

If your young child has shown any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak with their doctor. Be sure to have the following information on hand: any family history of asthma or allergies, abnormal behavior, breathing symptom patterns and potential triggers and responses to foods or possible allergy triggers.

If your young child is suspected to have asthma, their doctor may prescribe medications, or order blood tests, allergy testing and X-Rays. This will allow the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis and put your young child on an asthma management plan that is best suited for them.

“Infants and toddlers have much smaller airways than older children and adults, making even the tiniest of blockages a potential issue.”

If the doctor has diagnosed your young child with asthma, don’t fret!. Infants and toddlers can use most medicines meant for older children and adults — just at a lower dosage. Inhaled forms of asthma medicine are the most commonly used for treating infants and toddlers, such as nebulizers. A nebulizer is a small machine that turns liquid medication into mist so that your young child can breathe in through a small mask.

You may also administer asthma medicine to your child with the use of a spacer. This allows your child to breathe in the medicine through a small tube which holds the medication released by the inhaler fitted to it.

Tips for parents

This may all seem like a lot, especially if you’re a first-time parent. But luckily there are ways you can manage your young child’s asthma to help minimize stress for all. First, learn the warning signs of your child’s particular asthma symptom pattern. Be sure to develop an asthma care plan with your child’s doctor so that there is a specific course of action if symptoms get worse.

Next, teach your toddler to tell you when they are not feeling well so that their symptoms and triggers can be monitored more accurately, and treated immediately. In the event of a serious asthma episode, be sure to have an emergency action plan, such as what hospital you will use, who will take care of your other children, and how does your medical coverage provide for emergency care.

Although asthma is a chronic illness, knowing your infant or toddler’s symptoms, and having a preparedness plan in place will help you to effectively manage their symptoms.