Children with asthma can benefit from the same medications and strategies used in adults, although the medications are sometimes given in a different way and the doses are generally lower. Medications called inhaled corticosteroids are usually the first line of defense for children with persistent asthma, since they reduce the inflammation known to cause the disease. When taken as prescribed, these medications can go a long way to ensuring an asthma attack never happens. Other, newer medications can also assist with long term control.
Most children with asthma will also receive a prescription for a “rescue” medication. These medications, usually in inhaler form, should be kept on hand in case an attack occurs or appears imminent, since inhaled corticosteroids and other “controller” medications donít work fast enough to stop symptoms quickly.
Most asthma medications used by children come in metered dose inhalers (MDIs), small, hand-held devices that deliver puffs of medication right to the airways. In order to maximize their effectiveness, your doctor may supply your child with a “spacer” device to use with the MDI. When used correctly, this device makes it easier for your child to inhale the medication into his lungs, where it can work to prevent or relieve symptoms.
What about kids who are too young to use an inhaler? Children under age five can receive some of these same medications through a device called a nebulizer, which is a breathing machine that changes liquid medications into a fine mist that can be inhaled by the child without having to use a standard metered dose inhaler. There are also some newer asthma medications that can be given to young children in pill form.
Will my child’s asthma medications stunt her growth?
Reports in the media have suggested inhaled corticosteroids may impact a childís growth, but medical studies are proving this false. In fact, the 2002 update of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Programís Guidelines on the Management of Asthma clearly state that inhaled corticosteroids produce no clinically important, long-term, or irreversible changes in growth or bone mineral density in children who use them on a long-term basis to control asthma. These state-of-the-art, national guidelines recommend inhaled corticosteroids as the best controller medications for children age five and older with mild to severe persistent asthma.