Is It a Cold, Or Asthma?

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Before he heads off to school Kelvin Jones starts his day with his inhaler. If he doesn't, he knows what can happen. "Your chest gets tight. And you can't breathe of course and it just feels like somebody's hitting your chest."

Kelvin has asthma and because the disease runs in his family, doctors found it early. But not everyone is that lucky. Researchers at Columbus Children's Hospital say there are many kids who have the disease and don't even know it.

Pulmonoligist Dr. Karen McCoy says, "It's estimated that somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of kids may actually have asthma. That's a lot of kids for one illness."

Dr. McCoy is taking part in an extensive national study on asthma. She says about five million kids know they have asthma, but a million more may have and not know it. That's dangerous because an asthma attack, even if it's the first one a child's ever had, can be deadly.

So Dr. McCoy, who is also with Ohio State University, says it's up to teachers, coaches and even daycare providers to watch out for signs of trouble. The problem is, many may not know what to look for.

Dr. McCoy says, "All of these individuals to whom we entrust the care of our children, for the time they're not with us, need to be more knowledgeable about the basics of asthma."

Here are some of those basic symptoms that may point to asthma:
- First notice when a child coughs. If it's after playing or exercising and they can't seem to catch their breath, it could be more than a cold.
- Also, if the cough is centered in their chest, if it lasts for more than ten days or if you notice a wheezing sound when a child exhales, get them checked out.

Asthma can be controlled with medicine, but no one can help, if no one knows it's there. Dr. McCoy says minorities are more vulnerable to asthma, although cases have shot up in all races over the last 20 years.

In fact, it has grown to the point that asthma is now the most common chronic illness in children and causes kids to miss more school than any other chronic condition.