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My Baby Is Wheezing. Is it Asthma?

My baby is wheezing. The doctor wants her to get breathing treatments through a nebulizer. I'm worried! Could she have asthma?
– Audrey

Probably not. Many babies and young children wheeze due to colds or viruses and don't develop asthma when they're older.

Young kids are more at risk for wheezing because their airways are very small. When they get a cold or other respiratory tract infection, these already small passages swell and fill with mucus much more easily than an older child's or an adult's. This can cause wheezing, coughing, and other symptoms that people with asthma get.

Another thing to consider is how often your baby wheezes. One instance of wheezing isn't enough to diagnose asthma. It must happen more than once. But even when wheezing happens a bunch of times, it still might not be asthma, especially in young children. Most kids who wheeze as infants outgrow it and don't have asthma when they get older. So doctors usually can't make an asthma diagnosis until children are older, by about age 4 or 5.

In the meantime, doctors will treat any asthma-like symptoms. They may prescribe asthma medicines, but probably won't officially diagnose a child with asthma unless symptoms continue.

Share your concerns with your child's doctor, and ask about possible asthma if your daughter has:

  • wheezing that has happened more than once (with or without illness)
  • long-lasting coughing or coughing that get worse at night or after active playing
  • any other breathing problem that concerns you

The doctor may ask if your child has breathing problems in different circumstances, such as during a cold or when exposed to:

It's important to tell the doctor about any family history of allergies, asthma, eczema, and sinus problems. This information and careful monitoring of your child over time will help the doctor decide if the symptoms are due to asthma or another problem.

Date reviewed: September 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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