Which physical findings suggest pediatric asthma in the absence of an acute episode?

Updated: Jan 08, 2019
  • Author: Girish D Sharma, MD, FCCP, FAAP; Chief Editor: Kenan Haver, MD  more...
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The physical findings between acute episodes vary with the severity of the asthma. During an outpatient visit, a patient with mild asthma may have normal findings on physical examination. Patients with more severe asthma are likely to have signs of chronic respiratory distress and chronic hyperinflation.

Signs of atopy or allergic rhinitis, such as conjunctival congestion and inflammation, ocular shiners, a transverse crease on the nose due to constant rubbing associated with allergic rhinitis, and pale violaceous nasal mucosa due to allergic rhinitis, may be present.

The anteroposterior diameter of the chest may be increased because of hyperinflation. Hyperinflation may also cause an abdominal breathing pattern.

Lung examination may reveal prolongation of the expiratory phase, expiratory wheezing, coarse crackles, or unequal breath sounds. In a child who is not sick, forced exhalation may reveal expiratory wheeze. Forced exhalation can be obtained by asking the child to blow hard (like blowing imaginary birthday candles) or, in the case of toddlers or infants, pushing on the abdomen may be used to cause forced exhalation. Clubbing of the fingers is not a feature of straightforward asthma and indicates a need for more extensive evaluation and work-up to exclude other conditions, such as cystic fibrosis.

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