The best way to diagnose asthma is to speak with a physician experienced in asthma diagnosis and management. An allergy or asthma specialist will take a careful history looking for signs and symptoms of asthma and airway inflammation. A careful exam of the entire respiratory and cardiac systems will also be performed. The asthma specialist will often have you or your child perform a lung function test by blowing into a spirometer in order to detect any evidence of airway obstruction.
Since allergies play such a common role in asthma, allergy testing will be indicated in many cases. Your doctor may also need to rule out other causes of breathing difficulties by determining the health of your lungs and heart with X-rays or an EKG. Sometimes other conditions may induce asthma-like symptoms, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), or heart disease, just to name a few.
The diagnosis of asthma in infants and young children can be especially challenging due to the fact that lung function testing in young children is difficult. Therefore, the diagnosis of asthma may become evident only with the passage of time. Commonly, infants and young children are diagnosed with “reactive airways disease”, or RAD, which may eventually be confirmed as asthma. A strong family history of allergies or asthma may lead doctors to diagnose asthma at an earlier age.