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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:

  • Prevent and control the airway inflammation camera.gif to minimize long-term lung damage.
  • Decrease the severity, frequency, and duration of asthma attacks.
  • Treat the attacks as they occur.

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 steroid (corticosteroid) medicines can help reduce their side effects and the need for the oral (pill) kind.

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

Medicine choices

The most important asthma medicines are:

  • Inhaled steroid medicines. These are the preferred medicines for long-term treatment of asthma. They reduce inflammation of your child's airways and are taken every day to keep asthma under control and to prevent sudden and severe symptoms (asthma attacks). Examples include beclomethasone, budesonide, flunisolide, and fluticasone.
  • Short-acting beta2-agonists (quick-relief medicines) for asthma attacks. They relax the airways, allowing your child to breathe easier. These medicines include albuterol and levalbuterol.
  • Oral or injected steroid medicines (systemic corticosteroid medicines) to get your child's asthma under control before he or she starts taking daily medicine. Your child may also need these medicines to treat asthma attacks. Examples include dexamethasone, prednisolone, and prednisone.
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