Childhood Asthma: Know the Signs and Symptoms

Huong Fralin's picture
By Huong Fralin on September 16, 2020

Did you know that more children are hospitalized for asthma in September than at any other time of the year?

Back-to-school time is a peak time for asthma symptoms because that’s when viruses spark.

There are also certain kinds of mold that peak in the fall which can trigger symptoms for those with more significant asthma.

What is asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory condition that makes it harder to move air in and out of your lungs. It’s known as “reversible airway obstruction,” and can be minor, or significant enough that it can interfere with daily activities, such as running and exercising.

Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or flu

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, factors that can trigger an asthma attack include:

  • Environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores and pet dander
  • Cold weather when the air is dry
  • Exercise
  • Respiratory illness
  • Airborne substances such as chemical fumes, gases, dust and smoke

Cockroaches can also be a huge trigger for asthma because they also have dander.

When should your child see a doctor?
If your child is waking up in the middle of the night, coughing or wheezing when they don’t have a cold, that can be a red flag.

If your child also has seasonal or food allergies or eczema, they’re often at a higher risk for asthma. It can also be genetic, so make sure to mention any family history of asthma to your child’s pediatrician.

Pulmonary function tests can be given to a child who is at least four-years-old, which can provide information about how much air they can blow out, and how quickly they can do so.

Those who have asthma may be able to get nice big breaths in, but it takes longer for them to blow the air out.

The important thing to remember is that asthma can be controlled with medication and avoidance of triggers. Just because your child may be asthmatic, it doesn’t mean that they can’t play sports or have fun on the playground.

Carilion Clinic experts say that rescue inhalers can not only be helpful in calming asthma symptoms, but it can also be used 15 minutes before your child is scheduled to exercise or play a sport to prevent them from having problems.

Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. If your child is experiencing rapid worsening of shortness of breath or wheezing, or no improvement after using an inhaler, seek emergency treatment. If you suspect that your child may have asthma, consult with your child’s pediatrician to determine whether they should be tested, or referred to a specialist
This article has been reviewed by Amy Barker, N.P., Carilion Children's Pediatric Pulmonology.

See us safely at
As always, and like never before, we're here to see you safely through all your health care needs. Visit to learn how. For up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19, visit