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Reactive Airways Disease


Reactive airways disease (RAD) is a term used to describe breathing problems in children up to 5 years old. The signs and symptoms of RAD are similar to asthma, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

Emotional support:

Stay with your child for comfort and support as often as possible while he is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.

Vital signs:

Healthcare providers will check your child's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask you or your child about his pain. These vital signs give information about your child's current health.


  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your child's foot, toe, hand, finger, or earlobe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your child's oxygen level is low or cannot be read.
  • Spirometry: A spirometer measures how well your older child can breathe. He will take a deep breath and then push the air out as fast as he can. This test measures how much air your child is able to push out. This is called forced expiratory volume (FEV). The test results show healthcare providers how small your child's airways have become.
  • Mucus samples: Fluid from your child's nose or throat may be collected and tested. The results may tell healthcare providers what is causing your child's symptoms.
  • Blood tests: Your child may need blood tests to give healthcare providers information about how his body is working. The blood may be taken from your child's arm, hand, finger, foot, heel, or IV.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your child's lungs and heart. A chest x-ray may be used to check your child's heart, lungs, and chest wall. It can help healthcare providers diagnose your child's symptoms, or suggest or monitor treatment for medical conditions.


  • Short-acting bronchodilators: Short-acting bronchodilators may be given to your child to help open his airways. These medicines start to work right away and are used to relieve sudden, severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing. These medicines may be called relievers or rescue inhalers.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators: Long-acting bronchodilators may be called controllers. This medicine helps open the airways over time, and is used to decrease and prevent breathing problems. Long-acting bronchodilators should not be used to treat your child for sudden, severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing.
  • Corticosteroids: These medicines help decrease swelling and open your child's air passages so he can breathe easier. Your child may breathe the medicine in or swallow it as a pill. He may need higher doses of corticosteroids if he has severe asthma attacks.


  • Your child may need extra oxygen if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Breathing treatments: Breathing treatments open your child's airways so he can breathe more easily. Your child may need to use a nebulizer or an inhaler to help him breathe in the medicine. Ask healthcare providers to show you and your child how to use the nebulizer or inhaler.


Infants and young children who have RAD have a higher risk of bronchial hyperreactivity as they age. This is when the airways quickly overreact to triggers by narrowing or closing. If your child has severe symptoms of RAD, he has a higher risk of ongoing wheezing and asthma. His risk of lung problems as an adult is also higher. If your child has asthma, he may need to use medicine often or all of the time. The medicine may have side effects. It may make your child shaky, hoarse, or nervous. He may also have a headache, upset stomach, or sore throat. His lungs also may not grow as they should. Infants or children may stop breathing if their symptoms get worse. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about these risks.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.