A Journey With Asthma: Diagnosis

asthma word cloudWhen I was born, I had breathing difficulties. What a rough start! Sadly, it was but a prelude to the rough times to come. After being fed oatmeal and having subsequent breathing difficulties each time, I was diagnosed with asthma.

Unfortunately, this is a diagnosis that many parents will eventually hear. When diagnosing asthma in a child, the doctor looks at several things:


• Allergies
• Illnesses
• Triggers
• Lung Function Test (for adults)

The criteria for a diagnosis of asthma are:

• Airflow into the lungs is reduced periodically (due to narrowed airways)
• The symptoms of reduced airflow are at least partially reversible
• Other diseases and conditions have been ruled out

After diagnosis, asthma is then classified into categories based on the frequency of symptoms, severity of the symptoms, when they occur and overall lung function. Lung function is not easy to measure in younger children, therefore the classifications do not always work for children.

Mild intermittent asthma: Brief episodes of wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath that occur no more than twice a week is called mild intermittent asthma. Children rarely have symptoms between episodes (maybe just one or two flare ups per month involving mild symptoms at night). Mild asthma should never be ignored because, even between flares, airways are inflamed.

Mild persistent asthma: Episodes of wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath that occur more than twice a week but less than once a day is called mild persistent asthma. Symptoms usually occur at least twice a month at night and may affect normal physical activity.

Moderate persistent asthma: Symptoms occurring every day and requiring medication every day is called moderate persistent asthma. Nighttime symptoms occur more than once a week. Episodes of wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath occur more than twice of week and may last for several days. These  symptoms affect normal physical activity.

Severe persistent asthma: Children with severe persistent asthma have symptoms continuously.  Episodes of wheezing, coughing , or shortness of breath are frequent and may require emergency treatment and even hospitalization. Many children with severe persistent asthma have frequent symptoms at night and can handle only limited physical activity.

During this uneasy time before diagnosis, parents should be careful regarding what is fed to their child. Before my diagnosis, my parents were very concerned and apprehensive of everything that I ate. In the next installment of  “My Journey with Asthma”, the series will focus on how to cope with the news of an asthma diagnosis.

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