Why Your Child May Need Pulmonary Function Tests

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Lung function or pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are important in diagnosing and managing lung conditions like asthma in children. But sometimes the necessity of the testing can be a confusing topic for parents. Here are a few reasons why your child may need them.

1. Your doctor suspects your child may have asthma.

One of the reasons to perform a PFT is to diagnose a lung disease accurately. It’s often done for conditions like asthma. If your doctor thinks your child has asthma he or she may want those tests done to diagnose the condition, determine exactly how well your child’s lungs are functioning, and to get a baseline to compare with future testing. Most children can do those tests at age 5 or older as long as they are able to sit still for short periods of time and follow instructions. It can help to prepare your child ahead of time for what to expect.

2. Your doctor wants to know how a treatment is working for your child.

Sometimes your child’s physician may want to order another set of PFTs to be done after your child has had a therapeutic amount of time, (generally about six weeks,) on a new controller medication or treatment. This second set of results will be compared with your child’s initial testing to determine if the medication is working and to make any adjustments that might be needed.

3. Your doctor may want to change your child’s medication or dosage.

Our daughters have moderate to severe asthma and have PFTs done at least once per year. This is because the testing can often catch issues that aren’t yet being seen clinically by their symptoms (or to catch symptoms that aren’t being explained by the child).

We have gone into the test thinking our child was breathing just fine only to find out that her lung function wasn’t as good as we’d thought. At that point her doctor was able to tweak her medications before her breathing became even more compromised. Those check-ins can prevent more sickness later on.

If you have any questions as to why your child’s physician is ordering a test it is important to speak up. Your doctor can better explain the need for the test and the specific reason your child may be having it done.

Let your doctor know if the cost of testing or appointments might be affecting your decision. He or she may be able to set up a payment plan or recommend a program to help with the expense.

See more helpful articles:

New Research Fights Pediatric Asthma Epidemic

6 Tips for Asthmatics to Manage Spring Allergies

5 Triggers That Could Be Wreaking Havoc On Your Asthma

The Cost of Asthma: Are You Financially Burdened?