The term sometimes is misused as a synonym for asthma. Current medical use of the term reactive airway disease is used in pediatrics to describe an asthma-like syndrome in infants, that may later be confirmed to be asthmatics when they become old enough to participate in diagnostic tests such as the bronchial challenge test.
Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS) is a term proposed by Stuart M. Brooks and colleagues in 1985  to describe an asthma-like syndrome developing after a single exposure to high levels of an irritating vapor, fume, or smoke. It involves coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
It can also manifest in adults with exposure to high levels of chlorine, ammonia, acetic acid or sulphur dioxide, creating symptoms like asthma. These symptoms can vary from mild to fatal, and can even create long-term airway damage depending on the amount of exposure and the concentration of chlorine. Some experts classify RADS as occupational asthma. Those with exposure to highly irritating substances should receive treatment to mitigate harmful effects.