Reactive airway disease: Is it asthma?

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Reactive airway disease: Is it asthma?

Question

My 2-year-old son was diagnosed with reactive airway disease. Is this just a fancy term for asthma?

Linda
Nebraska

Answer

Sometimes the terms "reactive airway disease" and "asthma" are used interchangeably. However, they're not necessarily the same thing.

Reactive airway disease is a general term that doesn't indicate a specific diagnosis. It may be used to describe a history of coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath of unknown cause. These signs and symptoms may or may not be caused by asthma. Reactive airway disease isn't really a specific diagnosis. In fact, it's thought that some children are mistakenly given a diagnosis of reactive airway disease when they actually have asthma.

Describing a condition as reactive airway disease in part reflects the difficulty in establishing a diagnosis of asthma in certain situations — such as during early childhood. Although it's possible for infants and toddlers to have asthma, tests to diagnose asthma generally aren't accurate before age 6.

Last Updated: 2010-09-15
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