DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My son, 8, has been coughing off-and-on at night for a few weeks and says his chest hurts, but he never complains about it during the day. Could he have asthma? How is it diagnosed? If it’s very mild, would he still need treatment?
Based on the symptoms you describe, it is possible that your son has asthma
. His doctor can confirm the diagnosis using a test that measures lung function called spirometry
. Even in mild cases of asthma, treatment usually is recommended to help relieve symptoms.
When someone has asthma, the small airways in the lungs narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus. This can lead to a variety of signs and symptoms. In children older than 3, wheezing is typically the most specific asthma symptom. But in some kids, a chronic cough may be the only asthma symptom that they have. A persistent cough at night, an illness that includes a cough that lasts more than three weeks, or coughing in response to cold air, exercise, or laughing may all be the result of asthma.
When asthma is suspected in a child who is 5 years or older, the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program expert panel recommends lung function testing using spirometry. For this test, your son will take a deep breath and breathe out as hard as he can for several seconds into a tube that is attached to a machine called a spirometer.