Asthma in Children and Infants
How Do I Give Asthma Drugs if my Child Is a Toddler?
Infants and toddlers may use some of the same type of asthma drugs as older children and adults. Inhaled steroids may be key to managing infants with chronic asthma or wheezing. However, the medications are given differently to children under 4 years of age (such as with an asthma nebulizer and mask), and with lower daily doses.
The latest asthma guidelines recommend a stepwise approach for managing asthma in children up to 4 years of age. This includes the use of quick-relief medications (such as albuterol) for intermittent asthma symptoms. A low-dose of an inhaled steroid, cromolyn, or Singulair is the next step up. Then the intensity of the asthma treatment is focused on controlling their asthma. If the child's asthma is controlled for at least three months, your child's doctor may decrease the medication or "step down" the asthma treatment. Consult with your asthma specialist for exact medications and dosages.
Depending on your young child's age, you may use inhaled asthma drugs or liquid medications delivered with an asthma nebulizer, also known as a breathing machine. A nebulizer delivers asthma medications by changing them from a liquid to a mist. As a mist, your child will breathe the medications through a face mask. These breathing treatments usually take about 10-15 minutes and may be given up to four times a day. Your child's doctor will tell you how often to give your child breathing treatments.
Depending on their age, your child may be able to use a metered dose inhaler (MDI) with a spacer. A spacer is a chamber that attaches to the MDI and holds the burst of medication. This allows your child to breathe the medication into his lungs at his own pace. Talk with your child's doctor about your child using an MDI with a spacer.
What Are the Goals of Treating my Child's Asthma?
Asthma can't be cured, but it can be controlled. The goals of asthma treatment for your child are listed below. If your child is unable to achieve all of these goals, you should contact your child's doctor for advice. Your child should be able to:
- Live an active, normal life
- Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms
- Attend school every day
- Avoid asthma symptoms during the night
- Perform daily activities, play, and engage in sports without difficulty
- Stop the need for urgent visits to the doctor, emergency department, or hospital
- Use and adjust medications to control asthma with little or no side effects
By learning about asthma and how it can be controlled, you take an important step toward managing your child's disease. Work closely with your child's asthma care team to learn all you can about asthma, how to avoid asthma triggers, what asthma drugs do, and how to correctly give asthma treatments.