If My 7-Year-Old Daughter Wheezes, Does It Mean That She Has Asthma?

Maybe not, but asthma is very likely. Repeated bouts of wheezing in school-aged children—boys and girls—are almost always caused by asthma. The likelihood of asthma is even greater when a cough accompanies wheezing. A family history of asthma or allergy is an important risk factor for the development of asthma. Not all children who wheeze, however, have asthma.

Medical evaluation of a child who is wheezing must include consideration of other possible causes for the wheeze in order to establish the diagnosis. The list of such possibilities is called the differential diagnosis. Causes of wheezing in children include congenital abnormalities, such as tracheal webs; various types of infections; tumors; cardiac conditions; and other illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis.

Asthma is often underdiagnosed or missed in children. As any parent knows, children frequently catch many colds each year, especially when school is in session. Some children with undiagnosed asthma are erroneously thought to have recurrent chest infections when they in fact have asthma.

It is important for physicians to distinguish asthma from repeated episodes of bronchitis and infections, such as pneumonia. Do not assume that your child is experiencing a “bad winter” if she seems to be getting chest cold after chest cold; she may have asthma . If so, make sure that she gets appropriate medical care to establish an accurate diagnosis and receive correct treatment.