What... (i.e. camp, dance class, birthday party)
Pick a NYMetroParents Region: All Regions   Manhattan    Brooklyn    Queens    Westchester    Rockland   Fairfield    Nassau    Suffolk  




     Home  >  Articles  > Health Advice & Tips
by Dr. Lewis J. Kass


Childhood asthma is on the rise. More than 4 million children will suffer an attack this year. Pediatricians have come a long way in the last 15 years in terms of understanding and diagnosing asthma in children. However, it can still be tricky. Parents should be prepared to question the diagnosis and seek other possible causes of wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath.

Sometimes the diagnosis of asthma is obvious. I have an 8-year-old patient who wheezes with colds and with exercise. She coughs in her sleep and has shortness of breath during physical education in school. After being prescribed albuterol and inhaled steroids for asthma, she is doing well in gym and sleeping more soundly at night.

Sometimes, however, asthma can be very subtle and present with unusual symptoms. For example, a 7-year-old patient was always taking big, heavy ‘sighs’ — no matter the activity. Parents and teachers thought she was bored and disinterested. She also seemed to have prolonged episodes of coughing with every cold and occasionally suffered from bronchitis. The ‘sighing’ and coughing disappeared once the asthma was diagnosed and treated.

Just as it is important to diagnose and treat asthma in “real” asthmatics, it is equally important and sometimes more challenging to realize that many children who are told they have asthma may not have asthma at all.

Many other maladies and diseases can mimic asthmatic symptoms. For example, many children suffer from poor physical fitness. Their lungs simply may not be accustomed to the breathing capacity needed for certain physical education activities, such as running track in the beginning of the year. Other causes can include obstructive sleep apnea, laryngo-tracheo-malacia (floppy neck cartilage or vocal cords), vocal cord dysfunction and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Poor physical fitness or fitness that is not up to par with the activity at hand is something I see on a regular basis. A common complaint from parents is that their son or daughter begins running track at school and suddenly starts feeling shortness of breath and chest pain during practice. Sometimes children cough with exercise. Some will even get the sensation of wheezing or noisy breathing. These are all very common complaints in patients with asthma, so often the child will be prescribed an asthma inhaler; if this does not help, then inhaled steroids are prescribed. But sometimes, the symptoms persist.

Pediatric pulmonologists have extensive experience dealing with children’s sleep and asthmatic problems. During the initial consultation, I conduct a pulmonary function test. I perform a cardiopulmonary stress test with pulmonary function where the distinction can be made between poor physical fitness and exercise-induced asthma. Treatment for poor physical fitness is easy: Increase the child’s physical activity and endurance and remove the unnecessary medication. Further investigations can include exercise testing, overnight sleep studies, and/or allergy testing.

We’re better at diagnosis and management of childhood asthma than ever before. Doctors and parents, however, need to make sure that the diagnosis of asthma is correct. As one of my professors taught me: “All that wheezes is not always asthma. All that is asthma may not always wheeze.”

Never lack for a family activity

Receive our weekly highlights newsletter · Over 1,000 local activities

More Health Advice & Tips Articles

Three Tips for a Happier Holiday
Hosting the Holidays? Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy
New & Noteworthy-New 'It' Products for Kids & Parents
Fighting Childhood Obesity
Springtime Allergies & Kids

Be a good fellow parent and share this with a friend who would be interested
Email Friend

Local Health Advice & Tips Sponsors

United Martial Arts
509-L N. Bicycle Path
Port Jefferson, NY
At the United Martial Arts Center, our quest is to...

Active Kidz Long Island
200 Robbins Lane
Jericho, NY
516- 621-6600
Active Kidz is the place for kids to get healthy w...
The Academic Zone
300 Adelphi Street
Brooklyn, NY
(347) 995-8659
Singular Parent (The)
80 East 11th St, Ste 208
New York, NY

Reflections Dance Academy Ltd.
1310 Middle Country Rd
Selden, NY
Reflections Dance Academy is an upbeat, family-ori...
See Our Health Advice & Tips Directory

local zones


Nassau cont.


Suffolk cont.


Westchester cont.



Rockland cont.


Queens cont.


Brooklyn cont.


Copyright 2015 NY Metro Parents Magazine Site Design: THE VOICE