What Parents Need to Know About Asthma in Babies, According to Experts

While bringing a new life into the world is certainly exciting, pacing anxiously wondering why your baby is wheezing and coughing definitely is not — especially if it's your first go at this whole parenting thing.

Although asthma in infants is nothing to mess around with, it's very easy for parents to manage it once they learn the ropes. In an effort to shed a little more light on asthma in babies — and saving Mom and Dad from completely losing it — we asked the experts exactly what to look for if you suspect your infant has asthma.

Scroll through to see what the symptoms are, what to do if your child has it, and what to expect down the road.

What are the symptoms of asthma in babies?
Flickr user Jason Percival

What are the symptoms of asthma in babies?

Unlike older children, infants can't quite verbalize their symptoms just yet — and that means parents should look for nonverbal signs like:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Grunting noises
  • Flared nostrils
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Using the muscles near their necks to breathe
  • Lethargy
  • Lips turning blue

"If asthma becomes severe, babies will often recruit other muscles of their chest wall to help their lungs breathe better, which is known as retractions," explained Kanwaljit Brar, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health. "This can include movements of the muscles above and within the ribs or movements of the clavicle."

How do you treat asthma in babies?
Flickr user Kourtlyn Lott

How do you treat asthma in babies?

"If they have flared nostrils or are using their muscles near the neck to breathe, seem lethargic, or their lips are turning blue, they should go to the hospital, as these are dangerous signs the baby may stop breathing," said Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network.

Dr. Brar agrees, adding that if the symptoms are severe, parents should take their babies to the doctor ASAP. "If mild asthma due to a frequent cough is suspected, they should see their pediatrician or a specialist," she said. "For any signs of severe asthma, they should seek immediate medical attention."

Once you're at your child's appointment, a doctor will go over baby's symptoms and will potentially prescribe medication that's given by a nebulizer or with an inhaler using a spacer with a mask.

What are the effects of asthma in babies?
Flickr user Dennis Skley

What are the effects of asthma in babies?

Although some cases of asthma are more severe than others, asthma is fairly easy to live with if managed correctly. "Be sure you identify all the triggers with your doctor and come up with a controller medication plan and an asthma action plan in case of emergencies," advised Dr. Parikh. "Make sure all parties responsible for caring for your child are aware of the medications, triggers (like allergens), and plans in case your baby has an asthma attack."

And while hearing your bundle of joy wheeze is certainly frightening for any parent, there's a silver lining for some kids. "Asthma can be outgrown, though this is less likely in kids who are highly allergic and have eczema," said Dr. Brar. "To determine if your child's asthma is allergic in nature, we recommend you see an allergist for skin prick testing."

Dr. Parikh added that some people might have a better chance of outgrowing it than others: "Boys are more likely [to outgrow asthma] than girls — but anyone can."