It is difficult to manage asthma in infants because no signs and symptoms of asthma are alike for everyone.
As per studies, asthma in infants and children is on the increasing side, but exactly what the reason of this increasing trend is not known.
However, there are various factors that are contributing for this rise, which include air pollution, second hand smoke exposure, and deficiency in nutrition.
Although the asthma is same in infants and adults, asthma in infants triggering factors are freezing air, over stimulation or excitement, rapid changes in temperature, stress, allergens (dander, dust, insect, etc), and many more.
It is predicted that approximately eighty percent of the children are developing their first asthma symptoms before age 5 and it is difficult to diagnose asthma in infants and children below age 5 as the signs of other illnesses are similar.
Other conditions such as pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, cold, gastroesophageal reflux, etc have similar symptoms of wheezing and coughing. So, it is wise of not coming to the conclusion that the child has asthma and going for any long-term asthma treatment.
Since all wheezing and coughing is not caused by asthma, treating infants with asthma medication is not correct.
It is also hard to assess the lung function in infants, as they are unable to cooperate with lung function tests such as taking a deep breath in and breathe out fastly. These tests help to know the asthmatic changes in lungs.
Airways of infants are small. When an infant gets affected with any respiratory tract infection, these small passages become swollen and filled with mucus leading to wheezing and coughing, symptoms of either asthma or any other viral infection.
If the infant suffers from wheezing frequently more than once, it confirms the presence of asthma in infants.
Even though the wheezing occurs repeatedly, no doctor comes to the conclusion that the cause of wheezing is asthma; instead more tests will be done to decide and start appropriate diagnosis for the infant.
Since infants cannot be able to inhale the medication by inhalers, doctors will prescribe nebulizers in order to treat asthma in infants or inhalers with mask spacer attached to it.
Although it has been proved that inhaled steroids are best in treating asthma for adults and children over age five, there are very few studies of such treatment in infants and children below age five.
Drugs like Pulmicort (FDA approved drug) can be administered through nebulizer for children as young as one year. Cromolyn is also available for nebulizer use to treat asthma in infants. Leukotriene modifiers such as Singulair are approved to treat the children of age two and older.
Although long-term use of inhaled steroids influences the bone mineral density, growth of the child, etc., the benefits of preventing asthma outweigh the risks.
Since asthma in infants cannot be confirmed through tests, parents should watch for the signs and symptoms of asthma such as wheezing, coughing, breathing difficulties, etc., and discuss with the health care provider about the possibility of asthma in your child.