What is Infant Asthma?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.

Infant asthma is a type of asthma which appears during infancy. It is also possible for people to develop asthma in childhood or later in life. It can be difficult to diagnose asthma in babies because the symptoms are usually very subtle and the baby cannot communicate about how she or he feels, which can make it challenging to notice that something is wrong. This condition is very manageable, and around 50% of children with asthma grow out of it as they age.

A nebulizer mask is typically used to administer medications to babies and small children who cannot use an inhaler.
A nebulizer mask is typically used to administer medications to babies and small children who cannot use an inhaler.

In babies, asthma is very risky for several reasons. The lungs have not fully finished developing, and asthma can lay the groundwork for later health problems, and the bronchial tubes are much smaller, which means that the airway can be more easily obstructed. Asthma can also be linked with things like eczema, which cause discomfort and distress which may make a baby unhappy.

Around 50% of children with asthma grow out of it as they age.
Around 50% of children with asthma grow out of it as they age.

In order to diagnose infant asthma, the symptoms usually need to have persisted for several months. Some key symptoms include wheezing, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, unusual displacement of the chest when breathing which suggests that the baby is fighting for breath, a soft cry, and bluing of the lips and nails. The baby may also cough frequently or be restless. Commonly, infant asthma symptoms are more noticeable during sleep.

A pediatrician can treat asthma symptoms in infants even if a diagnose of asthma can not be confirmed.
A pediatrician can treat asthma symptoms in infants even if a diagnose of asthma can not be confirmed.

A pediatrician can treat asthma symptoms like wheezing even if a diagnosis of asthma cannot be firmly pinned down. If a pediatrician's review of the patient's history with caregivers suggests that the baby does indeed have asthma, there are a number of infant asthma treatments. These include modifying the environment to address concerns about allergies and giving medications, which may be offered in the form of oral liquids or inhaled medications. A nebulizer can be used to deliver medication to a baby who cannot use an inhaler.

Part of infant asthma treatment includes the development of an asthma action plan. Caregivers use the plan to evaluate the severity of asthma symptoms to determine which kinds of interventions might be needed, ranging from following a prescribed medication timetable to calling emergency services for a baby who is having extreme difficulty breathing. With well managed asthma, simply sticking to the medication regimen may be enough. If the asthma is not well managed, the baby may need emergency medications or attention at a hospital. Some cases of asthma are difficult to manage effectively and parents should not feel as though they have failed in some way if their infant asthma action plan requires periodic adjustments and modifications to address changing symptoms.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
      An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
    • A nebulizer mask is typically used to administer medications to babies and small children who cannot use an inhaler.
      A nebulizer mask is typically used to administer medications to babies and small children who cannot use an inhaler.
    • Around 50% of children with asthma grow out of it as they age.
      Around 50% of children with asthma grow out of it as they age.
    • A pediatrician can treat asthma symptoms in infants even if a diagnose of asthma can not be confirmed.
      A pediatrician can treat asthma symptoms in infants even if a diagnose of asthma can not be confirmed.