Have a Baby with Asthma? Here's 10 Signs to Watch Out For

by John Bottrell Health Professional

If you're like me and have a baby at home, and also have a family history of asthma, it's important you know the baby signs and symptoms of asthma -- just in case.

Likewise, if you know your baby has asthma, or if you are a daycare provider, teacher, grandparent, or anyone else who cares for children, you also should know the baby signs and symptoms of asthma -- just in case.

This is important because a baby cannot speak for herself and tell you she is having trouble breathing. In this way, YOU are responsible for knowing when asthma is present, and YOU need to know what to do to treat it.

Actually, Asthma is very difficult to diagnose in children less than 2, and many times doctors won't diagnose asthma until the child is older. However, if there is an extensive family history of asthma, sometimes the diagnosis is made based on

that fact alone. (To learn more about diagnosing asthma, click here).

Still, many of the symptoms of asthma in small children are similar to the symptoms of other illnesses that mimic asthma, such as cough variant asthma, upper airway viral infection (like croup), foreign body obstruction (like a hotdog stuck in the airway), or other disorders such as cystic fibrosis.

In essence, asthma is sometimes diagnosed after other possible causes are ruled out.

Many of the symptoms of asthma are the same as those of older kids and adults (as you can see here), yet since she cannot speak for herself, it's your job to know she's short of breath.

Thankfully there are some classic signs specific to babies and small children that indicate they are in respiratory distress. If you are vigilant, you should be able to pick up on these signs.

Now with that said, here are some signs of pediatric asthma. If you notice any of these signs you should call your child's doctor to get proper diagnosis and treatment:

  • 1.Coughing, especially at night: This is actually a classic sign of asthma

  • 2. Nighttime wakenings:May be due to coughing and/or chest tightness

  • 3. Wheezing: May be audible or silent

The following are signs asthma might be getting worse, and immediate attention is necessary:

  • 4.Rapid respiratory rate: Breathing is faster than normal

  • 5.Trouble feeding:Or lack of desire to eat

  • 6. Agitation/ crying: When babies can't eat they get restless

  • 7. Retractions: One great way to tell babies are having trouble breathing is if her chest isbeing sucked in with each inspiration.This is also a good sign for small children. See a video of this here.

  • 8. Nasal flaring: This is theflaring out of the nares upon inspiration.It is done in an attempt to suck in extra air. A classic sign of air hunger in babies.

  • 9. Grunting on expiration: This is the baby's natural attempt to keepher lungs open. Another classic sign of air hunger.

  • 10. Cyanosis: This is the blue discoloration of skin caused by lack of oxygen to that area. Usually it's aroundthe mouth, nose and fingertips. This isa sign the baby not getting enough oxygen.

If you notice the last four on this list you should call your doctor right away, or go to the emergency room to have your baby checked out. Regardless, all these signs should result in a call to a pediatrician.

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).