Topic Overview

Asthma is the most common long-lasting
(chronic) disease of childhood. It usually develops before age 5.footnote 1 Many children who have allergies get asthma, but not all. And not
every child with asthma has allergies.

In most cases of persistent
asthma, the first symptoms (such as
wheezing) start in the first years of life. One study
notes that about 25 out of 100 children with persistent asthma began wheezing before 6
months of age and about 75 out of 100 began wheezing by 3 years of age.footnote 2

Early infection with
respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that causes a lower
respiratory infection is a risk factor for wheezing.footnote 2
But other research shows that upper respiratory infections that do not
progress to lower respiratory infections may protect a child from developing
asthma.footnote 2

If your child has persistent
asthma, he or she may have:

  • Developed symptoms before age 3.
  • Had
    allergies in infancy and childhood.
  • A family history of
  • Wheezing when there is no viral
  • Recurrent asthma attacks associated with viral
  • Wheezing severe enough to require
    a hospital stay.

Asthma as your child grows

It is likely that your
child will not develop asthma even if he or she wheezes as an infant.

  • About 15 out of 100 infants who wheeze develop
    persistent wheezing and asthma.footnote 2
  • About 60 out
    of 100 infants who wheeze no longer wheeze by age 6.footnote 2
  • About 50 out of 100 preschool-age children who wheeze
    have persistent asthma later in childhood.footnote 3

It is also hard to predict whether your child’s asthma
will continue into the teen years or adulthood.

  • In most cases of intermittent asthma associated
    with respiratory infections (rather than allergies), symptoms tend to become
    less severe and may go away by the teen years.
  • Asthma seems to continue into the teen years in
    children who have moderate to severe asthma. If your child has moderate to severe asthma,
    he or she may have asthma as an adult.footnote 1

Related Information



  1. Covar RA, et al. (2014). Allergic disorders. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 1171-1206.
  2. Guilbert T, Krawiec M (2003). Natural history of asthma. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 50(3): 524-538.
  3. Wood RA (2002). Pediatric Asthma. JAMA, 288(6): 745-747.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD – Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lora J. Stewart, MD – Allergy and Immunology

Current as ofMarch 25, 2017