Asthma is a chronic condition and can present itself at any age. Initially it could be mistaken for other conditions such as bronchitis, recurrent colds, chronic cough, poor exercise tolerance, allergies, etc. Here are some signs that should raise concerns about possibility of asthma for you to discuss with your physician:
1) Recurrent nigh time coughing: The body’s circadian rhythm (your body’s clock) at night releases less adrenaline and corticosteroids, which have protective effect against airway inflammation. So if your cough is worse between 2-4am it may be nocturnal asthma.
2) Feeling short of breath during exercise: There are different triggers for asthma. Exercise is one of the common triggers. If you develop a cough while exercising it may be due to exercise-induced asthma.
3) Recurrent Bronchitis: Viral illnesses are another common trigger for asthma and are sometimes over treated with antibiotics. If you have been diagnosed with recurrent bronchitis, ask you physician to do a pulmonary function test for you to determine your chance of having asthma, and hopefully avoid receiving unnecessary antibiotics.
4) Coughing during the allergy season. Seasonal allergies are a major trigger for both childhood and adult asthma. If your symptoms are not controlled with allergy medicines alone, you may also have an underlying asthma diagnosis.
5) Wheezing: If you have felt short of breath, wheezing, and/or having retractions (pulling in of the skin between ribs when you breath), there is a strong possibility that you suffer from asthma.
If you or your child has any of the above signs and symptoms, be sure to discuss them with your physician. There are tests, such as a pulmonary function test (PFT) that can be administered in the office to determine your risk of suffering from asthma. Properly managed asthma should help avoid urgent visits to ER, and improve your quality of life.
Article written by Dr. Sam Pejham, director of Tri-Valley Pediatrics and Assistant Clinical Professor of UCSF School of Medicine, and the Co-Founder of AsthmaMD.