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Asthma in Children - Medications

Medicine does not cure asthma. But it is an important part of managing the condition. Medicines for asthma treatment are used to:

Asthma medicines are divided into two groups: those for prevention and long-term control of inflammation and those that provide quick relief for asthma attacks. Most children with persistent asthma need to use long-term medicines daily. Quick-relief medicines are used as needed and provide rapid relief of symptoms during asthma attacks.

Medicine delivery

Most medicines for asthma are inhaled, because a specific dose of the medicine can be given directly to the bronchial tubes. Delivery systems include metered-dose and dry powder inhalers and nebulizers. A metered-dose inhaler is used most often.

Most doctors recommend that every child who uses a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) also use a spacer camera.gif, which is attached to the MDI. A spacer may deliver the medicine to your child's lungs better than an inhaler alone. And for many people a spacer is easier to use than an MDI alone. Using a spacer with inhaled corticosteroids can help reduce their side effects and the need for oral corticosteroids.

actionset.gif Asthma: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler
actionset.gif Asthma in Children: Helping a Child Use a Metered-Dose Inhaler and Mask Spacer
actionset.gif Asthma: Using a Dry Powder Inhaler

Medicine choices

The most important asthma medicines are:

Long-term medicines sometimes used alone or with other medicines for daily treatment include:

Other medicines may be given in some cases.

Medicine treatment for asthma depends on your child's age, his or her type of asthma, and how well the treatment is controlling asthma symptoms.

  • Children up to age 4 are usually treated a little differently than those 5 to 11 years old.
  • The least amount of medicine that controls your child's symptoms is used.
  • The amount of medicine and number of medicines are increased in steps. So if your child's asthma is not controlled at a low dose of one controller medicine, the dose may be increased. Or another medicine may be added.
  • If your child's asthma has been under control for several months at a certain dose of medicine, the dose may be reduced. This can help find the least amount of medicine that will control your child's asthma.
  • Quick-relief medicine is used to treat asthma attacks. But if your child needs to use quick-relief medicine on more than 2 days a week, the amount and number of controller medicines may be changed.

Your child's doctor will work with you and your child to help find the number and dose of medicines that work best.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 14, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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