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Reactive Airways Disease

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What is reactive airways disease (RAD)?

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. RAD symptoms can occur because of airway swelling. A child's airways are small and narrow, making it easy for them to fill and get blocked with mucus. These factors make it hard for healthcare providers to know what is causing your child's symptoms, or the best way to treat them.

What increases my child's risk for RAD?

What signs and symptoms may mean that my child has RAD?

The signs and symptoms of RAD are similar to asthma. Your child may have any of the following:

How is RAD diagnosed?

Healthcare providers will ask you about your child's symptoms. Tell them if your child's symptoms get worse when he or she is around a trigger, such as pets or smoke. Tell them if the symptoms get worse at night, or in cold air. Tell them if your infant grunts or sucks poorly when he or she is feeding. If your older child has to miss school, often feels ill, or is too tired to exercise, tell healthcare providers. Your child may need one or more of the following tests to find the cause of his or her symptoms:

How is RAD treated?

Healthcare providers may treat your child's symptoms with medicines. They may follow up with your child as he or she gets older to see if his or her symptoms go away. Your child may need to use medicines every day or only when needed. He or she may need one or more of the following:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What can I do to help my child prevent flares?

What can I do to help my child develop a strong immune system?

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

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. 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.

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Further information

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