Symptoms in 3 year old: Just what are... - Asthma UK communi...

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Symptoms in 3 year old


Just what are they? I'm treating him with all the usual inhalers but I am unclear as to what other three year old asthma suspects are displaying symptom wise. What have other parents seen in their toddlers?

He's well at the moment - just a cold, but the symptoms he has shown in the past are:

dry cough when running around

waking with a cough at night

panting - only one episode last summer when there was a general rise of asthma attacks in our area

pre treating him with inahlers he had a permanent cough and cold.

When he did have this panting episode, I didn't realise that this was an attack as he was running around and eating and I sent him to nursery - not relaising that he needed urgent treatment. So it would be good to know what to look for as there is never the wheezing that everyone talks about. For me, its difficult to know whether I am treating an asthmatic or a normal series of colds that all toddlers are prone to. I am happy to go along with the advice of the GPs and asthma nurses - especially as it works.

6 Replies

My son who is now four years old has asthma and similar symptoms to this. Its mainly coughing particularly when he has a virus. However when his attacks have been serious he uses accessory muscles. But definitely sounds similar.


Hi, I have two 3 year olds with asthma. We do get the wheeze which is an obvious sign. We also get the cough, I too have recently been confused with normal cold symptoms and asthma symptoms. Things like a chesty chokey type cough I see as being asthma related. When a cold is bad they can sound short of breath but have a clear chest on examination, I am convinced this is asthma related. It is hard at this age and I think once they are old enough to do peak flows it will be a lot easier to spot the signs, and have evidence of the asthma playing up iykwim! I think the most important thing to look for is any pulling in of tummy, ribs, chest, and to get him seen asap if this happens. I wish I could help more, but am finding myself also confused with distinguishing a cold from asthma symptoms, so you are not alone.


In my son, they are subtle and I have had to read between the lines!

Recent things (post-hospitalisation following acute resp disress in Mar 09):

Next cold (3 weeks ago), wheezy and overbreathing in his sleep. Chesty cough and constant tummy ache. GP heard crackling but no wheeze.

Since then:

At bedtime, maybe a husky type of breathing (not quite wheezy) - I notice it when I cuddling him or sitting close whilst reading a book. The only reason I notice it is because it's louder than mine and mine is absolutely silent at rest - my son's breathing at rest isn't.

Anxiety at bedtime (in my usually confident sleeper) - saying that he feels frightened and that his tummy hurts. Not being able to get off to sleep. This stopped immediately after giving him his blue inhaler.

Tummy hurts when he gets told off or runs around a lot.

Overbreathing slightly when at rest and again I'm aware that I can hear him breathing at rest - e.g. when concentrating on lego.

Early rising from 'tummy ache'.

Both doctors in the hospital and the GPs have explained the difficulties in diagnosing asthma in infants - because of compliance with physiological diagnostic procedures. But we did visit the asthma nurse last week and she agreed with me on the subtle signs that I thought might be significant. He's now started on his steroid inhaler - much to our relief! I think sometimes that as a parent you have to go with your instinct. If you think that something is a symptom in your child then it probably is - you can read him better than anyone in the world. So I'd just let nursery know what you think are his signs - even if they don't sound ""severe enough"". Don't be shy! I was a bit shy when telling the nurse what I thought were my boy's signs, I nearly didn't go in fear of them thinking I was neurotic, imagining it etc :O)

Hope all goes well.



hi learner mum hope this finds you all well i just wanted to say dont worry about looking neurotic everyones symptoms are different over time you will become more confident and will recognise exactly what they daughter is 6 she too doesnt get the wheeze there has been a few times ive taken her to the docs my gp hasnt been in and ive seen a different one and they have refused to believe me when ive told them she was having an asthma attack , i kicked up a stink and got her on a nebuliser half hour later the doctor gp says we know our children best so if we think they are struggling its up to us to get ourselves daughter also complains of tummy ache and you can see by looking at her chest when shes finding it difficult to breathe ,a persistent cough can also show,tiredness and she gets daughter has bad uncontrolled asthma and sees a consultant once a month who is brilliant and i no longer have to see my gp as i phone him and he gets straight back to me.i also saw the part you put you didnt know your child was having an attack i had this also when she had her first bad attack she too was talking crying and i just thought she was ill lucky enough i got her seen and she was hospitalised i dont want to scare you i just want you to know you are not alone and if a gp or anyone doesnt take you seriously then make for at school/playschool asthma uk have cards you can order for free they are fantastic and you put all their meds and symptoms on there i ordered these took them into school along with this website address and the astma nurse number and now every asthmatic child in school has one and if they are unsure they have contacted the nurses from auk i hope this helps dont ever worry about looking crazy i dont.


PS - sorry learnermum, I forgot to say that when my son says ""tummy ache"" that he infact means that his chest is tightening or he's using accessory muscles - because the ""tummy ache"" is always made better by his inhaler - and I have tried to fop him off with sweets, calpol and lots of other ""remedies"" for a tummy ache! Sure enough, he went to a soft-play centre today and went belting over to the equipment, got to the top and started crying saying that his tummy hurt, so I gave him his blue inhaler.

hope you ok!



Thanks for all your messages. I realise I'm lucky he's a very minor case, but it was great to hear from similar families. I will be on the lookout for the sore tummy - which he has complained about before. He has also had the hacking cough but with a clear chest -an interesting conundrum - and the noisy breathing. I know when he's clear of all asthma when I have to go up cheek to cheek to check he's breathing at night.

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