If your child is diagnosed with asthma, work closely with his pediatrician to make sure he gets appropriate treatment. "It's surprising how often physicians underestimate the severity of asthma in children," says Jill Halterman, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. In a study of kids ages 4 to 6 with persistent mild to severe asthma, Dr. Halterman discovered that only 40 percent of the children were correctly diagnosed -- and only a third received the right preventive medicine for their degree of asthma.
It's common for parents and doctors to dismiss symptoms as a cold or cough, the study found, when they really signal a worsening of the asthma. "But there's a big difference between a run-of-the-mill cough from a cold and the unrelenting cough from asthma," says Dr. Halterman. Alert your doctor if your child experiences such symptoms as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing, and wheezing more than twice a week during the day or more than once a week at night. Physicians rely on feedback to get the big picture and properly tailor medications. Keep a log of your child's attacks, what triggers them, and how often they flare up.
Steroid treatments have been shown to be safe and effective, even in babies as young as 1. And getting the correct daily medication will not only let your child engage in more activities and feel more in control, it'll also protect him from developing more serious breathing problems and upper-respiratory illnesses later on.