ZocdocAnswersIs reactive airway disesase contagious?

Question

Is reactive airway disesase contagious?

I just learned that a child in my daughter's class has 'reactive airway disease'. I've never heard of this, and when I've tried to learn about it online, I found a bunch of contradictory things. My main questions are: What is it, and is it contagious?

Answer

Reactive airway disease is a spasm of the airways in response to some environmental stimulus. This airway spasm can result in coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In children, it is essentially a term for childhood asthma, which may or may not continue into adulthood. It is basically an allergic reaction, and therefore is not contagious. The distinction from asthma is a delicate one, generally made because while asthma is a lifelong diagnosis, reactive airway disease may subside, and because accurate tests to determine if a patient has asthma cannot be conducted in children. While some experts believe that the term reactive airway disease should be avoided, and these children should instead be diagnosed with asthma (prompting early treatment), other experts feel that the distinction is quite important, and should be preserved. This diagnosis is quite common. Frequent allergens that stimulate the reaction include animals, dust, pollen, and even cold air, which is not so much an allergen as a harsh shock to the airways, causing the spasm. Symptoms are easily treated with an albuterol inhaler (puffer). Some confusion can arise because reactive airway dysfunction syndrome, which sounds quite similar, is an adult condition brought on by exposure to harsh environmental stimuli, typically in the workplace.

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