A Greek study finds that this symptom showed up in children whose disorder hadn't yet been diagnosed

While most people associate asthma with wheezing and shortness of breath, the disorder can show itself in other, less common ways, especially in small children.

That's the conclusion of a new study from Greece finding that, for some children, frequent throat clearing is the only apparent symptom of asthma. Results of the study appear as a research letter in the April 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Symptoms of the lung disorder include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and a tight feeling in the chest. Now, the study says, doctors should look for constant clearing of the throat.

For the current research, researchers at the University of Crete asked parents of 2,609 children from 70 day care centers about their children's health. The average age of the children was 4.3 years old, and the group had slightly more boys than girls.

Almost 18 percent of the children had been diagnosed with asthma in the preceding 12 months. Almost 24 percent had been diagnosed with asthma more than 12 months before the start of the study.

The most common recurrent symptoms parents of all the children reported were coughing with a cold, coughing at night, coughing in the presence of smoke, coughing when laughing or crying, coughing from exercise, and vomiting. Only 5.5 percent of the parents said their children wheezed often.

Parents of 106 (4.1 percent) kids reported that their children frequently cleared their throats. From that group, 61 children had not been diagnosed with asthma. Thirty children out of the 61 were old enough to perform lung function tests that evaluate how well their lungs performed.

All 30 children showed signs of decreased lung function that improved significantly when asthma medications were given. The authors conclude that means the 30 youngsters had undiagnosed asthma. These children had shown no other signs of asthma, according to the study.

If the lung function improves by more than 12 percent after treatment, doctors say that means the child probably has mild asthma and should be treated for it.

Learn More
To learn more about asthma, visit the http://www.lung.ca/, or the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, which also has some tips on living with childhood asthma.

or, check our Asthma pages

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