Asthma or Reactive Airway Disease (RAD)

  • Our twin daughters, Ella and Ava, were diagnosed at 6 weeks old with Reactive Airway Disease (RAD).  RAD is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with asthma, but they do not mean the same thing.  RAD is a host of symptoms, while asthma is an actual diagnosis or condition.  

    Often RAD is used to describe infants who are thought to have asthma but have not undergone the testing.  Testing is not usually done this early because of the likelihood for it to be inaccurate before age 6.  RAD can also be caused by things other than asthma.  Not all infants with RAD end up as children with asthma.

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    One of the scariest parts of Ella and Ava's RAD symptoms were that they were too little to tell us when they felt poorly or couldn't breathe.  This forced us to start looking for early signals from them that they were not breathing well.  


    RAD Symptoms

    In babies who are laboring to breathe, you can sometimes tell by looking at their ribcage.  This phenomenon is called "retracting."  It can look almost like the ribs are making a "see saw" motion and makes the ribs more obvious or protrusive. Retracting often accompanies rapid breathing and in severe instances lips may also turn blue.  These signs need to be evaluated by a physician immediately.

    There are also other signs of RAD in infants.  Some of these signs include frequent coughing, low energy or lethargy, whistling or wheezing sounds with breathing, and tight chest or neck muscles.  If you see any of these signs, discuss them with your child's pediatrician as soon as possible.



    If your child is diagnosed with RAD, it will most often be treated with medications to open the airway, like a fast-acting inhaled steroid called albuterol, or medications to reduce triggers, like Singulair or even other allergy medications.  While it can be scary to give your infant medication it is very important to follow your physician's instructions.  In almost all instances the risk of taking these medications are far lower than the risk of an airway dysfunction.

    If you are dealing with RAD in your infant you have taken a great first step by learning more about the condition.  Stick around here at Health Central and follow my blogs for even more info and feel free to post any questions or comments below.

Published On: August 18, 2014