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.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.