How to recognise the symptoms of asthma
Symptoms and triggers of asthma can vary - how will you know if your child suffers with asthma? Roberta Laing finds out
'Parents often worry about wheezing,' says Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical consultant to patient.co.uk. 'But this can also be down to a viral infection or an allergy rather than asthma.
However, a dry cough that's worse at night or in the early morning is often a symptom of asthma.' Other signs are blue lips or difficulty breathing.
Keep an eye out for triggers: exercise, time of day, dust, pollen or animals can set it off, as well as people smoking around the child, pollution, a change in the weather, mould and fungi, birds, coughs and colds.
Don't expect an immediate solution, as it may be tricky for a GP to diagnose if your child is under the age of five.
They will ask if there is a family history of asthma or allergies. 'A study last year showed it tends to be inherited from the same sex parent; so dads will pass to sons, and mums to daughters,' Dr Jarvis explains.
Babies may be given oral treatment; older children may have a blue 'reliever' inhaler to help open up the small tubes in the lungs as well as, possibly, a brown low-dose steroid 'preventer' inhaler.
'You should also be given an asthma action plan,' says GP Dr Jasmine Weeks. 'The aim is to make you feel confident about giving medication and managing your child's asthma; it will tell you what to do if symptoms get worse, how to spot warning signs of an attack, and to know triggers.' Asthma UK says the quality of treatment varies around the country; go to asthma.org.uk/compareyourcare to find out how your child's rates.