Asthma is a long-standing inflammatory condition that affects your airways and alters your ability to breathe. Hereditary and environmental factors may trigger it. Symptoms of asthma arise when your airways constrict and swell. These symptoms vary and can be severe, life-threatening, or barely noticeable.

Besides, the severity and type of symptoms may differ in the same person. People with mild symptoms often go undiagnosed. So, if you feel that you may be experiencing asthma symptoms, visit your doctor. They will take your history and advise some tests to confirm the diagnosis. While asthma cannot be cured, appropriate treatment prevents flare-ups and lung damage.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, asthma may affect people of all ages but is more likely to develop during childhood.

Let’s have a look at how asthma manifests in different age groups.

Asthma in Children

In children, the airways and lungs get easily inflamed when exposed to triggers such as catching a cold, inhaling pollen, or any respiratory infection. Childhood asthma may cause symptoms that interfere with sports, play, sleep, and school. In certain cases, unmanaged asthma may cause a severe flare-up.

While asthma in children is not really different from asthma in adults, kids face unique challenges. Childhood asthma is a common cause of hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and missed school days.

Unfortunately, childhood asthma cannot be cured and may continue into adulthood. But with the right treatment, you can prevent the damage to growing lungs and keep symptoms under control.

Asthma symptoms vary according to age and are as follows.

Asthma in Infants

Infants (0-1 Year) are highly susceptible to asthma as they have smaller airways than adults. They also experience respiratory infections often, which causes them to have asthma symptoms frequently. The most common symptom in infants is respiratory infections with wheezing.

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Some other symptoms are:

  • A change in crying sounds
  • Difficulty in eating or sucking
  • Decreased interaction with parents
  • Cyanosis that is characterized by the pale blue coloring of lips, face, or fingernails 

The presence of any of the mentioned symptoms may indicate an emergency, and immediate treatment is necessary.

Asthma in Babies

A baby (1-4 years) has smaller airways and respiratory system than an adult, and thus a minor infection may cause breathing troubles.

A respiratory infection may trigger the first signs of asthma in your baby. So, if your baby develops a viral respiratory infection, look for the following signs and symptoms of asthma. 

  • Heavy breathing or panting during everyday activities that usually do not get your baby breathless
  • Labored breathing, where the belly moves more than usual and nostrils flare
  • Wheezing or whistling sound while exhaling
  • Shallow and fast breathing
  • Frequent coughing
  • Difficulty sucking or eating
  • Face, lips, or even fingernails turning blue
  • Fatigue, where the baby might not be interested in their favorite activities

If you notice changes in the baby face’s color or has difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention. It may be a medical emergency.

Read more about Important Asthma Facts here.

Asthma Symptoms in Kids

Some common symptoms of asthma in kids (5-12 years) are:

  • Wheezing while exhaling
  • Frequent cough that is triggered while the child is asleep. Cold air or exercise can also trigger coughing
  • Chest tightness or congestion
  • Breathlessness
  • Cough that gets worse with the flu or cold
  • Sleeping difficulty due to coughing, shortness of breath, or wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Delayed recovery after a respiratory infection
  • Difficulty in breathing that hampers exercise or play 

Symptoms and signs of asthma may differ for every bay and might get better or worse over time. It is also possible for the baby to just have a single indication, such as chest condition or lingering cough.

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When to see a doctor

Take your baby to the doctor’s office if you suspect he or she has asthma symptoms. Early treatment will help in preventing asthma attacks and helping control symptoms.

Make an appointment with your doctor in case you notice:

  • Whistling or wheezing sounds when the child exhales
  • Complaints of chest tightness
  • Intermittent coughing linked to physical activity or a constant cough
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath

Signs and symptoms that indicate the need for emergency help are:

  • Using abdominal muscles to breathe
  • Stops in midsentence to catch a breath
  • Tries hard to breathe so that the abdomen is sucked under the ribs while inhaling
  • Widened nostrils while breathing

Asthma in Adults

Some common symptoms of asthma in adults are:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Nasal flaring
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness and irritability
  • Itchiness

Symptoms of a severe attack include:

  • Difficulty walking or talking
  • Blue face, lips, or fingernails
  • Extreme breathlessness where the chest and neck is sucked in with each breath
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Mental confusion
  • Rapid pulse
  • Chest pain

Asthma in Older Adults

Asthma can happen at any age, but it is more severe when it happens in old age. It is not uncommon for individuals in their 70s or 80s to experience asthma symptoms for the first time. Symptoms of asthma in older adults are similar to anyone else.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Episodic chest tightness, cough, wheeze, or shortness of breath
  • Asthma symptoms vary throughout the day
  • Recurrent wheezing or coughing episodes as the only symptoms
  • History of atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis
  • Symptoms worsen during exercise, at night, or in the presence of airborne irritant or allergens

Final Thoughts

Asthma is a common condition that can occur at any age. While asthma symptoms are similar in all age groups, it is more severe in childhood and old age adults. Besides, older adults are underdiagnosed for asthma as many conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occurring at that age have similar symptoms.

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And unattended asthma may result in complications and lung damage. So, if you have asthma symptoms such as frequent coughing, wheezing, or breathlessness, let your doctor know and strictly follow the asthma guidelines suggested by your doctor.

Symptoms of asthma may vary and thus, if you are diagnosed with asthma, visit the doctor’s office at least once a year or frequently if needed. Besides, contact your doctor immediately if you feel extremely tired, have a wheeze that does not settle, or cannot perform daily activities.

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