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  • Writer's pictureCAFF Team


Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Many times the terms Reactive Airway Disease (RAD) and Asthma are used interchangeably, but they actually not the same thing. Children with reactive airway disease are subject to bronchial tubes that often overreact to outside irritants.

Reactive airway disease is often diagnosed in young children who are showing signs of asthma but who are too young to have lung function testing that can confirm an asthma diagnosis.

reactive airway disease in children

Reactive airway disease is not the same as reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS). Even though the symptoms are similar, the causes are different. RADS is caused by excessive exposure to some sort of corrosive gas, its fumes, or its vapors. RADS also usually occurs just one time and is not chronic.

What are the Symptoms of Reactive Airway Disease?

The symptoms of reactive airway disease are similar to those of asthma, which is one reason it is often misdiagnosed. Some of the symptoms of reactive airway disease in children include:

  • wheezing

  • coughing

  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • excess mucus in the bronchial tube

  • a swollen mucous membrane in the bronchial tube

  • hypersensitive bronchial tubes

  • tightness in the chest

What Can Trigger Reactive Airway Symptoms in Children?

While the trigger may not always be known, it could be an underlying medical condition that has been overlooked. There are some common triggers that can be linked to reactive airway disease in children which include:

  • pet hair or dander

  • dust

  • pollen

  • smoke

  • mold or mildew

  • exercise

  • stress

  • perfume or other strong odors

  • changes in the weather or seasons

  • respiratory infections

One thing that can make it difficult to properly identify an irritant or trigger is that it can be a combination of two or more irritants that can cause a reaction, but those same irritants alone will not.

Prevention of Reactive Airway Disease

Although you may not be able to prevent reactive airway disease itself, there are a few things you can do to prevent flare-ups. Identifying and avoiding triggers can assist in the flare-ups and symptoms of reactive airway disease in children.

Visit the Children's Airway First Foundation resource library for more information on children's airway disorders.

Children's Airway Resource Library

As with any medical condition, consult your child's pediatrician should you see any of these symptoms in your child or if you suspect your child is suffering from an airway or respiratory condition.

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