If your child has breathing problems and it could be asthma, your doctor will:

  • ask about symptoms and general health
  • ask about asthma and allergies in the family
  • do a physical examination (e.g. listen to the chest, check inside the nose)
  • look for signs of other possible medical problems that could cause the symptoms.

Your doctor may ask you to give your child asthma medicines for a short time (e.g. a few days or a few weeks) and carefully watch for changes in symptoms. Before making the diagnosis, your doctor may refer your child to a specialist (e.g. paediatrician or paediatric respiratory physician).

Preschool children
Wheezing and coughing are very common in little children, even if they don’t have asthma.  If your child is still happy and active while wheezing and does not seem to be having any problem breathing, this is probably not asthma and does not need to be treated.

Try to give the doctor as much information as you can about your child’s wheezing and breathing problems. Before you visit your doctor, video (or audio- record) the wheezing on your phone, if possible. Noisy breathing, such as a rattling sound, is common in healthy babies and preschoolers. This is not the same as wheezing and does not mean the child has asthma. Watch your child’s chest when wheezing and tell your doctor if it looks different from breathing when there is no wheezing.

Your doctor will ask about whether wheezing  only happens over a few days, from time to time (e.g. when the child has a cold) or at any time (e.g. coughing and wheezing while playing or laughing).

School-aged children
As well as asking about symptoms and doing a physical examination, your doctor will arrange a spirometry test. This can be done in the doctor’s office or at a testing clinic. A spirometer machine measures how hard and fast a child can breathe out into a mouthpiece attached to a tube. The information from the test shows how well the child’s lungs are working.

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