My three children (ages 9, 11, and 13) were all sick late last summer with flu-like symptoms. Our pediatrician diagnosed all three with asthma by just listening to their lungs and prescribed inhalers.
I question the diagnosis. Is there some test that I should ask for the doctor to do to confirm it? Do we need be concerned with prolonged inhaler usage?
Listening to the lungs is the best way to diagnose the classical wheezing associated with asthma. The disappearance of these symptoms with the use of these inhalers pretty much makes the case. Asthma is a reversible disease, so if using the appropriate medication lessens symptoms, they were likely caused by asthma.
A test called a methacholine inhalation challenge can be done to make the diagnosis. It works because methacholine causes mild constriction of the bronchial tubes in the lungs of almost all people with asthma. The constriction is measured by doing a pulmonary function test; if the amount of air a patient can forcibly exhale in one second is reduced below 80 percent of his resting number, the diagnosis of asthma is fairly certain.
As for the use of bronchodilator inhalers, they can cause jitters and heart arrhythmia if overused. By and large, the regular use of these medications, when used properly, presents no problems.