Asthma is a complex lung disease that results from many different genetic and environmental risk factors. No single strategy can prevent asthma, but you can take steps to help reduce your baby’s risk of developing it.

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Because asthma is so complex and caused by many factors, it can be challenging to prevent it from developing in babies and children.

Whether you’ll develop asthma is determined by the effects of hundreds of different genes interacting with various environmental exposures. Although symptoms might look similar from person to person, one child’s asthma could have very different underlying triggers than another’s.

Even so, you can take steps to create a healthy lung environment for your child. Read on to learn how to reduce your baby’s risk of developing asthma.

Learn more about asthma in babies.

Avoid cigarette smoke exposure

Both smoking during pregnancy and exposing infants to smoke after birth are associated with a significantly increased risk of asthma in children. Smoking during pregnancy is also linked to other serious health outcomes, such as SIDS. If you are pregnant or planning to conceive, talk with your doctor about quitting smoking.

Get your RSV vaccine

All babies will catch colds, and exposure to routine childhood germs may be an important part of asthma prevention.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a serious respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in infancy or toddlerhood is linked to increased chances of developing asthma.

Hospitalization for RSV bronchiolitis in the first year of life has been repeatedly associated with the development of asthma and even allergies. Researchers suggest that severe bronchiolitis infection may be one trigger in the development of asthma.

The CDC now recommends that pregnant people receive RSV vaccination during the third trimester of pregnancy.

If you did not get this vaccine while pregnant, ask your doctor about nirsevimab. It’s a monoclonal antibody injection given at the start of RSV season to infants ages 8 months or younger whose birthing parent did not receive an RSV vaccine.

If your baby was born prematurely or has other health conditions, your doctor might recommend a different monthly antibody injection for RSV prevention.

Talk with your doctor about nutrition

Get your doctor’s advice about healthy diet, exercise, and weight gain during pregnancy. Excessive gestational weight gain may be associated with an increased incidence of childhood asthma and allergic conditions.

You may also want to speak with your doctor about whether certain supplements are right for you, such as:

  • Vitamin D: Previous research from 2020 showed a trend toward decreased wheezing in preschoolers whose mothers received high dose vitamin D while pregnant.
  • Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids): Research from 2018 suggests a possible asthma-preventive effect when higher doses of certain types of fish oil are taken during pregnancy.

Nurse, if you can

The evidence on breastfeeding or chestfeeding for asthma prevention is mixed. Previous studies have found no protective effect of nursing on asthma development. However, a 2019 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that newer evidence shows potential beneficial effects of any nursing.

If your child’s pediatrician diagnoses asthma, they might recommend inhaled asthma medication for your child.

Albuterol quickly opens up tight airways caused by asthma and can be given via an inhaler with a spacer and mask or a breathing machine called a nebulizer.

If your baby has repeated episodes of wheezing, your doctor might also recommend a preventive inhaled steroid, such as budesonide or fluticasone. This can be given daily or intermittently at the onset of colds.

Your doctor will also help you understand common environmental asthma triggers and how to avoid them.

As your child gets older, more definitive allergy and asthma testing can be ordered if symptoms persist.

When is asthma an emergency?

If your child’s asthma medication is not working or their condition worsens, call your pediatrician right away.

Call 911 anytime your child is having severe trouble breathing.

Signs of serious difficulty breathing in babies and toddlers include:

  • Their breathing is very hard and fast.
  • Their nostrils are flaring.
  • The skin between or under the ribs is sucking in and out while breathing (retractions).
  • They are unable to talk, drink, or cry due to difficulty breathing.
  • They have blue or gray lips or skin.
  • They are unresponsive.
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Doctors often find it difficult to tell when a child under age 6 years has asthma. No practical diagnostic lung function test is available for this age group.

Because their airways are so small, about 50% of children experience wheezing in their first year of life. But research shows that most babies who wheeze will outgrow their symptoms and will not develop chronic asthma.

It can be hard to tell whether wheezing in a baby represents asthma or not. To manage symptoms and keep your child safe, doctors will treat recurrent wheezing in toddlers and young children the same way as asthma.

Some clues can help predict whether your baby will go on to have chronic asthma. Risk factors that predict a higher likelihood of asthma in a child include:

  • prolonged wheezing and coughing with viral colds (greater than 10 days) that often worsens at night
  • more than three episodes of wheezing per year or severe episodes, such as those that require emergency room or hospital care
  • coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath between colds or with other triggers (e.g., active play, laughing or crying)
  • family history of asthma
  • personal history of atopy like eczema, allergic rhinitis, or food allergies

As your child gets older, their symptoms and further testing can confirm a diagnosis of asthma. Asthma is often lifelong, although symptoms can ease and worsen over time.

Doctors can help you manage your child’s asthma very well. With treatment and monitoring, they can help your child freely participate in all age-appropriate activities with minimal to no symptoms.

Can childhood asthma be cured?

At this time, asthma isn’t considered curable, though you can manage symptoms. Some children and adults may experience a complete remission of their asthma symptoms.

If your child has had no asthma symptoms for a year or more, talk with your doctor about weaning medication, repeating lung function testing, or both. Your child will still need monitoring, though, because asthma symptoms can recur later in life, even into their 30s and 40s.

Can a baby’s asthma go away?

About 60% of babies who wheeze with viral colds will outgrow their symptoms by age 6 years and will not go on to have asthma.

Asthma is a complex disease caused by the interaction of many different genetic and environmental triggers. It can be difficult to diagnose in infants, and no one-size-fits-all preventive strategy exists.

Sill, some evidence-based prevention strategies may fit you and your family, such as avoiding cigarette smoke exposure, consuming a healthy diet and doctor-recommended prenatal vitamins, getting recommended vaccines, and nursing when possible.