Conditions + Treatments

Asthma Symptoms & Causes

LIke ThisLIke ThisLIke ThisLIke ThisLIke This

What is asthma?

  • The diagnosis of asthma in children is based on recognising a characteristic pattern of episodic symptoms such as wheeze, cough, or shortness of breath in the absence of another condition.

Risk factors

The risk factors for developing asthma include:

  • having a parent who has, or had, asthma
  • atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • hay fever or other environmental allergies
  • wheezing, apart from colds
  • food allergies (such as to eggs, peanuts or milk)


Symptoms of asthma are caused by inflammation, which causes narrowing of small air passages in the lungs. Symptoms may include:

  • wheezing
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest tightness

Asthma ranges from mild with occasional symptoms to severe with persistent symptoms that make daily life difficult. Even children with mild disease may have severe asthma episodes (exacerbations).

Long-term outlook

  • There is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled and managed with proper use of medication and, when possible, avoiding triggers.
  • Children with asthma can to do everything their friends can do, including playing sports at any level, when their asthma is well controlled.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944