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Asthma Treatment

As many as 7 million children under the age of 18 have asthma, and there are no doubt asthma attacks are scary for both you and your child. Children with asthma suffer from inflammation of the airway lining, tightening of the airway muscles, and increased secretion of mucus in the airway. The result is a narrowed airway that makes it difficult for the child to breathe, often leading to an attack.

There are two main types of asthma medications:

  • Rescue medicines—used during an asthma attack to relax the muscles of the tightened airways, allowing the child to breathe more easily. They can be given by way of a nebulizer or an inhaler with a spacer. Common rescue medications for asthma include Albuterol, Ventolin, and Proventil.
  • Controller medicines—used to prevent symptoms from occurring. These medicines should be used every day, even when your child is not showing any symptoms of asthma. There are different types of controller medicines that prevent airway swelling, muscle contraction, and inflammation.

Inhaled steroids are the most common and effective preventative treatment for persistent asthma symptoms. Their main purpose is to keep a child from having an asthma attack; they do not relieve symptoms during one. With that in mind, doctors often recommend that asthma sufferers use inhaled steroids daily or sometimes even twice a day for the best results.

There are three basic types of devices that deliver inhaled medications:

  • Metered-dose inhalers (MDI): This is the most common inhaler, which uses a chemical propellant to push the medication out. In children, an MDI must be used with a spacer, a tube-like device that attaches to the inhaler and ensures that the medication is delivered into the lungs.
  • Nebulizer: A nebulizer delivers a liquid mist of the medication through a mask that fits over your child’s nose and mouth. They are typically used for young children who might have difficulty using an MDI.
  • Dry powder inhalers (DPIs): DPIs administer medication without using chemical propellants, but they require a strong and fast inhalation. They are best used for older kids.

There are also oral controller medications that your pediatrician may prescribe that bind to the muscle cells in the lungs and prevent asthma symptoms.  These medications, such as montelukast or Singulair, are commonly used in children who also suffer from allergic symptoms that trigger asthma.

Reviewed by Dr. Kristie Rivers, November 2018


  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
  • Inhaled Asthma Medications: Tips to Remember.
    American Lung Association
  • Asthma and Children.
    American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Inhaled and Intranasal Corticosteroids and Your Child.

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