Treating asthma in children ages 5 to 11

Treating asthma in children ages 5 to 11 requires some specialized techniques. Discover tips on symptoms, medications and an asthma action plan.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Asthma in children is one of the most common causes of missed school days. It can disrupt sleep, play and other activities.

Asthma can't be cured, but you and your child can reduce symptoms by following an asthma action plan. This is a written plan you develop with your child's doctor to track symptoms and adjust treatment.

If you think your child may have asthma, see a doctor. Early diagnosis is important. Asthma treatment in children improves day-to-day breathing, reduces asthma flare-ups and helps reduce other problems caused by asthma. With proper treatment, even severe asthma can be kept under control.

Asthma symptoms in children ages 5-11

Common asthma signs and symptoms in children ages 5 to 11 include:

  • Coughing, particularly at night
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain, tightness or discomfort
  • Avoiding or losing interest in sports or physical activities

Some children have few day-to-day symptoms, but have severe asthma attacks now and then. Other children have mild symptoms or symptoms that get worse at certain times. You may notice that your child's asthma symptoms get worse at night, with activity, when your child has a cold, or with triggers such as cigarette smoke or seasonal allergies.

Asthma emergencies

Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening and require a trip to the emergency room. Signs and symptoms of an asthma emergency in children ages 5 to 11 include:

  • Significant trouble breathing
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • No improvement even after using a quick-relief inhaler, such as albuterol
  • Leaning forward in a sitting position to breathe
  • Being unable to speak without gasping
  • Peak flow meter readings in the red zone

Tests to diagnose and monitor asthma

For children 5 years of age and older, doctors can diagnose and monitor asthma with the same tests used for adults. They measure how much air your child can quickly exhale, an indication of how well the lungs are working.

Your child's doctor may be able to check for inflammation in your child's airways with a test that measures levels of nitric oxide gas in the breath. In general, higher levels of nitric oxide mean your child's lungs aren't working as well as they should be and his or her asthma isn't under control.

Using a peak flow meter

The doctor may give your child a portable, hand-held device (peak flow meter) to measure how well his or her lungs are working. A peak flow meter measures how much air your child can quickly exhale. Low readings indicate worsening asthma. You and your child may notice low peak flow readings before symptoms become apparent. This will help you recognize when to adjust treatment to prevent an asthma flare-up.

Feb. 08, 2014 See more In-depth