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If My Baby Is Wheezing, Could it Be Asthma?

Medically reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD

Is Wheezing in Babies a Sign of Asthma?

Babies and young children might wheeze due to viral infections (like a cold or bronchiolitis), but that doesn't mean they will develop asthma when they're older.

Young kids are more at risk for 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 doctors consider is how often a baby wheezes. One instance of wheezing isn't enough for them 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. Many kids who wheeze as infants outgrow it and don't have asthma when they get older. So doctors might wait to confirm an asthma diagnosis until children are older, usually by about age 4 or 5.

In the meantime, doctors will treat any asthma-like symptoms. They may prescribe asthma medicines, even if they don’t officially diagnose a child with asthma. If a child gets better with asthma medicines, this can help a doctor decide whether an asthma diagnosis is likely.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

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

  • wheezing that has happened more than once (with or without illness)
  • long-lasting coughing or coughing that gets 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 situations, 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.

Medically reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: August 2023