Symptoms and Signs of Asthma in Children

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Asthma in Children

Asthma is a chronic disorder caused by inflammation in the airways that causes the airways to tighten and narrow, blocking air from flowing freely into the lungs and making it hard to breathe. The inflammation of the airways makes them very sensitive and an asthma attack can occur when a person is exposed to certain “triggers.” Common asthma triggers include exercise, allergies, viral infections, and smoke. In most children, asthma develops before 5 years of age, and in more than half, asthma develops before 3 years of age.

Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and cough, particularly at night or after exercise or physical activity. During severe asthma attacks in older children symptoms may include restlessness, being out of breath while resting, sitting upright, speaking just words and not sentences), sleepiness, and confusion. Other symptoms of asthma in infants or young children may include lung infections (bronchitis) or pneumonia, stomach breathing (use of abdominal muscles to breathe), and lack of interest in feeding.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.