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Clinical features of childhood asthma

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Between attacks, the child may be asymptomatic with no abnormal physical signs.

Common symptoms of an acute attack include:

  • expiratory wheeze and breathlessness
  • occasionally cough may be the only symptom
  • symptoms are generally worse at night; also most patients may feel chest tightness in the morning
  • young children may vomit or have reduced appetite

Signs of an acute attack include:

  • child unable speak or to walk due to breathlessness
  • intercostal recession and use of accessory muscles
  • exhausted child
  • wheeze with tachypnoea and tachycardia
  • remember the silent chest as an important severe presentation - wheeze and crackles may not be present
  • peak flow - not reliable due to poor technique
  • a chronic asthmatic may have a Harrison's sulcus

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