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Deciphering Your Child's Aches and Pains

If your child has a chronic health condition such as asthma or allergies, you know it's crucial to understand his symptoms. But you might not realize that even young children can offer valuable insights into their health. In fact, a new Pediatrics study found that kids as young as 7 can accurately explain their asthma symptoms. And if your child is younger than that? "Don't underestimate what children can tell us. Other research shows that kids as young as 4 can report on their health symptoms  -- you just have to know how to ask the right questions," says study coauthor Jon Korfmacher, Ph.D., associate professor at the Erikson Institute in Chicago. To do that:

• Ask concrete questions, such as "Is your throat itchy?" Avoid open-ended ones, like "How do you feel?"

• Give your child a choice whenever possible. For instance, ask "Can you take deep breaths or little breaths?"

• When talking with your pediatrician, don't forget to include your child in the discussion. Give him a chance to tell the doctor how he's feeling before you chime in.