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Viral wheeze or asthma???

hello, im donna. I have a little girl Libby who is 1 year old. We have recently had our third visit to hospital with rapid breathing. I can never hear a wheeze yet when we get to hospital doctors can, using there instruments.

Libby was 8 1/2months when 1st admitted, then 10 1/2 months then 1 year.

All the samething, fast breathing.

she has blue inhaler for when needed and brown 2 times am and pm.

When the doctors talk to me they say viral wheeze yet i saw a letter to my doctor today clearly stating asthma for reason of admitting her.

I really am unsure if its one or the other.

My mother, 2 sisters and 2 of there kids have asthma. libby also has excema, her 3 year old brother has excema, worse than libby, but he has no breathing difficulties.

Is it asthma? is it a viral wheeze? or is she a ""fat happy wheezer"" (my nurse said 15 years ago thats what they called healthy size babies that wheeze....made me smile!)

Any clue? we see the consultant in feb saw her beginning of november.

does anybody else's child not wheeze till its too late? all three times there has been no wheeze till its too late and the rapid breathing with pulling in at chest.the blue inhaler then doesn't help so hospital and nebulizer it is.

althought the third time i went to energency doctor at 7pm coz i had a suspicion something was going on but he put it down to her temp as no wheeze. then at 4am we were sent to hospital. I want to be able to prevent this but dont know how?

any suggestions

Many thanks for listening to me waffle on.

Donna and libby x x

3 Replies

Hi donna and Libby

I'm sorry that things are so 'difficult' at the moment.

I don't think that dr's can technically diagnose asthma in children as young as Libby. We got told that Ollie ''probably' had asthma after his third admision (we were in for 7days). Although he only really gets ill when he's got a virus/chest infection.

We felt a bit like you initially - we didn't really care what it was called just wanted to get it sorted. It many respects it doesn't really matter what they call it as the treatment is basically the same.

My son was 1st in hospital when he was 2.2months - alhtough he had a 'viral wheeze' and broncilitus as a baby and was also called a happy wheezer!!! and had been on/off blue/brown inhalers since about 4 months.

My son never wheezes that we can hear - doctors rarely hear a wheeze via stethascope either. His main symtoms are like your daughters rapid breathing and pulling in his chest. He also often has a temp.

I know that initially it's hard but it does get easier with time. This winter we've had no hosp admissions only a 'flying' visit. We've got better as spotting his early symtoms and after discussion with GP and Consultant we up his meds (blue) at the 1st sign of cough/cold etc.

We also found that we weren't really told how to use the inhalers - not really given advise about stepping up/down puffs daily so we were stopping giving him the blue inhaler too quickly and not lowering the number of puffs gradually and keeping him on it for longer. We now have an action plan which we wrote in consulation with GP and Consultant so we as parents and dr's if we're admitted are clear as to what meds ollie is on and what we do and when - we've found it a real help.

Obviously i'm not qualified or experienced enough to tell you how to manage Libby's 'asthma/viral wheeze' but i would suggest that if you have any doubts about how/when how much etc i would ring the asthma nurse on this site - i found them really usuful - i would also talk to the asthma nurse at your surgery and or your GP. We found that once we had been given(found) the right info and had a bit more experience then things got better.

I hope that things get better soon and that libby's ok. Feel free to PM me if you want to.

take care



Hi Donna,

I'm so sorry Libby has been poorly, it must be a very anxious time for you.

As Claire has said, it's not officially possible to diagnose asthma in children as young as Libby. Wheeze is caused by narrowed airways, and as young children's airways are so narrow anyway, they are very sensitive to developing wheeze if there is the slightest amount of airway inflammation present. Non-asthmatic children, unlike non-asthmatic adults, can therefore develop wheeze when they get a cold or another respiratory virus - this is what's meant by viral wheeze. It's essentially treated in the same way as asthma, with drugs that open up the airways like salbutamol (Ventolin).

Having said that, the more frequently your daughter gets a wheezing attack in response to a virus, the more likely it is that it is something longer term like asthma, rather than just infrequent episodes of viral wheeze. Once it becomes a recurrent problem, it is often easier and better for the patient for doctors to assume it is asthma, and treat it as such, even though it can't officially be diagnosed until Libby is older. This doesn't mean that she will necessarily have it for life, or get worse - it just means that she will be getting the right treatment in the mean time. The fact that she also has eczema and there is family history of eczema and asthma will also probably have swayed the doctors in favour of treating it as asthma for the time being - as I'm sure you know, the two can go together.

In terms of trying to pick up the symptoms and signs earlier on, it is very difficult in a child as young as Libby, as of course they can't tell you how they are feeling. Many parents say that as they get more used to it they pick up the subtle individual signs, which often vary from child to child. Often, talking less (once she is talking fluently), being less active, and struggling to eat/drink can be noticed. It can be quite common, in adults and children, not to be able to hear the wheeze initially - and some asthmatics don't wheeze at all. As I'm sure you know, fast breathing and the pulling in of the chest, between the ribs, or under the chest are quite late signs, as are difficulty eating/drinking and not being able to complete sentences - all of these should prompt you to seek medical help urgently, as you have been doing.

Hope this helps; I'm sure things will get easier as Libby gets older and is more able to tell you what's going on.

Take care

Em H


Thank you

thank you for the replies. They were very helpful!

I still feel a little lost as to when the symptoms start and helpless as to avoid going to hospital.

Like you say with time hopefully i shall notice libby's symptoms and be able to react sooner.

Many thanks

Donna x x


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