Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common problem—24 million people in the U.S. are thought to have it—but few people have a grasp of what it is.

In fact, half of the people who have COPD don’t even know it. Why? COPD symptoms can creep up gradually or be mistaken for something else, such as a cough, allergies, cold, flu, or other less serious ailments.

If you have COPD, you have emphysema or chronic bronchitis, or—most often—both. Read on to find out more about the symptoms of COPD.

Istockphoto/Health.com
Health.com
February 29, 2016

Asthma can be surprisingly difficult to diagnose, especially in young children and babies. The symptoms of asthma vary widely from person to person, and they can also resemble the symptoms of the flu and other respiratory infections. A chronic cough could be caused by asthma—or by a lingering respiratory bug or some other ailment (such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, in adults).

The upshot is that it may take some time before a doctor will say the words, “These symptoms are due to asthma.” When trying to determine whether a person has asthma, a doctor has to consider the nature and pattern of symptoms such as wheezing and coughing, as well as family history. (A childs chance of developing asthma is 50% to 80% dependent on genetics, according to some estimates.)

In older children and adults, doctors may perform various lung function tests, such as spirometry or bronchoscopy. Spirometry involves blowing into a tube to measure lung function, which is not a practical test for very young children. In bronchoscopy, a lighted scope is used to examine the lungs, but this test is done much less often than spirometry.

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