Is it coughing or asthma?

This post is part of a series that focuses on children’s and women’s health, as part of a sponsored partnership with Aurora Health Care.I’ll never forget one summer evening at Chill on the Hill about two years ago. My family and I were enjoying the live bands and laid-back atmosphere of our favorite summer concert series in Bay View’s Humboldt Park.

My son, four years old at the time, was running around non-stop with his friends near the stage.

All at once, I noticed that his face was red. Very red. It was a hot night, and everyone was sweaty. But when I looked at all of his friends, not one of them looked as red in the face as he did.

I just knew in my gut that something was wrong.

As I started to reflect more, I realized that he always seemed to have a mild cough. It didn’t seem to bother him too much. I chalked it up to the typical colds that run through day cares and schools.

But now I was realizing that his coughing may not be a cold symptom at all. He may have asthma.

What is asthma?

According to Aurora family medicine physician, Dr. Christina Crumbliss, it’s very common to cough with a cold. However, if you have trouble breathing when you don’t have other symptoms, you might have asthma.

Asthma is an inflammation of the airways that causes swelling, narrowing, or clogging with mucus, making it hard to breathe. Patients cough in an attempt to clear the airway, but it doesn’t help much.

That’s what was happening to my little guy, and it broke my heart.

How common is asthma?

Asthma is a very common, chronic condition. It’s so common that about 12% of adults and 11% of children in Wisconsin have it, and that number is rising.

What are the symptoms?

You can start having asthma symptoms at any age, and the most common ones are:

-Chronic (regular, ongoing) cough, especially at night

-Wheezing or whistling when you breathe

-Shortness of breath

-Tightness or pressure in the chest

What Causes Asthma?

While it’s unknown exactly why some people’s airways react this way, asthma does seems to run in families. Common triggers include:

-cigarette smoke

-allergens in the air like pollen, animal dander, mold and dust mites

-cold air

-colds and respiratory infections

-some medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers

sulfites and preservatives in foods and drinks


-gastroesophageal reflux disease


Sometimes symptoms come on fast and hard.

Since asthma can be life threatening, it’s important to get emergency treatment for shortness of breath that happens quickly or gets worse.


Start with your primary care provider. If you already know you have allergies, you may want to see an allergist. (To find an Aurora doctor, click here.)

They may ask you to do some tests to measure how much air you can blow out and how fast you can do it. They may do allergy test, as well.

Asthma treatment focuses on preventing attacks. A doctor can help your child to:

-improve overall health

-avoid triggers.

-identify warning signs

-measure breathing

Medicine can help prevent or manage symptoms, as well.

Rescue medications give quick relief from breathing problems. If you find you need a rescue medication often, you may need to start a maintenance medication. Maintenance medications help control the symptoms around the clock.

If you want to know more about asthma and how to treat it, click here.


Luckily my son’s asthma was very mild, and linked to identifiable allergies. But I’m always on the lookout for new or worsening symptoms.

Nobody messes with my child’s airways!

Do you or you child have asthma? How does it affect your life? Comment below!

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