In adult patients, the consistent use of language to describe dyspnea enhances patient-provider communication and contributes to diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. The objective of this research was to determine whether pediatric patients similarly display consistency in the language used to describe “uncomfortable awareness of breathing.”
One hundred children between the ages of 8 and 15 years with moderate to severe persistent asthma enrolled in an asthma education research program completed questionnaires regarding descriptors of asthma on each of two occasions. In addition to the breathlessness questionnaires, demographic information, self-reported asthma severity, ED visits, missed school days, anthropometrics, and spirometry were obtained for each participant.
Children were reliable in their choice of the descriptors that they applied to their breathing discomfort across two occasions, and they selected the same descriptors that were used by adults with asthma in previous studies. Children with greater self-reported asthma severity endorsed more descriptors to characterize breathing discomfort than did children with less severe asthma, but no differences were found among children based on demographic or anthropometric variables.
Children with moderate to severe persistent asthma are reliable in their choice of descriptors of breathlessness. Knowledge of their experience of symptoms may be helpful clinically in the assessment and management of asthma.