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Problem to breathe after about 10 minutes of playing

Answered by: Dr Sri Viknarajan

Last Updated: June 13, 2019 8:09 AM
fendi 19 months

I have a 10 year old son. He recently always had a problem to breathe after about 10 minutes of playing with his friends at the playground. I am very worried with his condition. None of our family member have asthma.

Dr Sri Viknarajan 19 months
General Practitioner
  • Hi and thanks for the question, and very sorry to hear that you and your son are facing this problem. There are many causes of shortness of breath, asthma being the most common in children. But there may be other causes to look out for such as heart conditions that may be exacerbated during physical activity and anemia.
  1. Asthma – asthma is a reversible constriction of the airways that has its own triggers such as certain food (peanuts, seafood, etc.) or exercise. It is commonly diagnosed in children over 5 years but may be diagnosed even in adulthood. Pertaining to your question, yes, asthma does tend to run in the family, but it does not necessarily manifest as breathing problems, but manifests as allergic rhinitis and eczema. Asthma commonly described as chest tightness and hunger for air.

  2. Heart failure – the most common cause of heart failure in children is congenital heart disease. Congenital heart diseases may not manifest and remain asymptomatic for years because there are 2 types of congenital heart disease. The cyanotic heart disease manifests immediately, because the child does not receive enough oxygen even at rest, while the second type, the acyanotic heart disease manifest later or during exertion as the body does not receive enough oxygen when the demand increases. It is commonly described as suffocation.

  3. Anemia – this is a condition where the body produces less or non-functional red blood cells. As red blood cells are the carrier of oxygen, the reduction of it will be compensated by shortness of breath. This may not be apparent at rest and may be exacerbated by physical activity. The child may be noticeably pale.

  4. Deconditioning – this is when the child complains of heavy, rapid breathing after vigorous physical activity, but have normal cardiopulmonary systems. This is nothing to worry about but causes above should be ruled out first.

  5. As there are many causes, without a full history and examination, it is advised to see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and seek appropriate treatment

Last Updated: Thu Jun 13 2019 08:09:11 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
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