Your Asthmatic Toddler May Be Flaring, Not Cranky – The Early Warning Symptoms

I’ve written a couple of times before that I wouldn’t turn this blog into a comprehensive asthma source. For one, the Internet isn’t hurting for good asthma pages–like here, here, and here.

And also?

Asthma Mom morphed into a blog also about air quality and pollution, children’s health, and of course a weekly collection of strange medical links and media.

So maybe you understand my reluctance. Despite it, though, I find myself writing about my kid, her history, my ruminations on breathing problems and healthcare, asthma research, and every other week or so I think, *Ooh, well. There’s that one thing about asthma that’s important to remember, so I’ll just post about it real quick.*

Enough weeks pass, and behold: I appear to be creeping up onto a somewhat comprehensive asthma site. I guess too much information isn’t a bad thing, right? It is, however, forcing me to rethink some of this site’s navigation, as I ran out of tabs for the static pages above months ago. This list from my days as the asthma editor will end up on a page and not just a post as soon as I fix that.

When I was first learning, the more I read about symptoms and early warning flare signs in young asthmatics, the more I started noticing some of them in AG’s behavior and remembering how she acted as a sick toddler, right before she flared.

The very early signs are incredibly easy to miss, but if you can recognize them then you have a better chance of heading off a flare right when it starts. Lots of times, what seems like bad or cranky behavior in a very young asthmatic can alert you to an attack. Even now, if my daughter acts unusually tired but she hasn’t been unusually active, I know breathing problems will (usually) follow.

Here are subtle, early signs of an asthma flare, followed by regular and emergency symptoms:


Early/Subtle Symptoms

1. Mood swings
2. Crankiness
3. Fatigue
4. Watering eyes
5. Dark circles under the eyes
6. Cold symptoms – coughing, sneezing, and runny nose
7. Trouble sleeping
8. Restlessness
9. Low exercise tolerance
10.Any changes in breathing
11.Any changes in peak flow readings

Flare Symptoms

1. Coughing fits
2. Wheezing
3. Shortness of breath
4. Tightness in the chest
5. Peak flow numbers in the yellow zone

Emergency Symptoms

1. Cyanosis – blue-tinted skin, starting around the mouth and resulting from lack of oxygen in the blood
2. Posturing – hunched-over shoulders while breathing
3. Retractions – drawing in of the abdomen under the ribcage while inhaling
4. Peak flow readings in the red zone
5. Major problems breathing
6. Severe coughing or wheezing that doesn’t improve with emergency meds
7. Severe tightness in the chest that doesn’t improve with emergency meds

Want to read more symptom information?