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Asthma in Children - Treatment Overview

Although your child's asthma cannot be cured, you can manage the symptoms with medicines and other measures.

It's very important to treat your child's asthma. Although he or she may feel good most of the time, even mild asthma may cause changes to the airways that speed up and make worse the natural decrease in lung function that occurs as we age.

Your child can expect to live a normal life by following his or her asthma action plan. Asthma symptoms that are not controlled can limit your child's activities and lower his or her quality of life.

Know the goals of treatment

By following your child's treatment plan, you can help your child meet these goals:

  • Increase lung function by treating the inflammation in the lungs.
  • Decrease the severity, frequency, and duration of asthma attacks by avoiding triggers.
  • Treat acute attacks as they occur.
  • Use quick-relief medicine less (ideally on not more than 2 days a week).
  • Have a full life—the ability to participate in all daily activities, including school, exercise, and recreation—by preventing and managing symptoms.
  • Sleep through the night undisturbed by asthma symptoms.
actionset.gif Asthma: Taking Charge of Your Asthma

Babies and small children need early treatment for asthma symptoms to prevent severe breathing problems. They may have more serious problems than adults because their bronchial tubes are smaller.

Follow your child's action plan

An asthma action plan tells you which medicines your child takes every day and how to treat asthma attacks. It may include an asthma diary where your child records peak expiratory flow (PEF) or symptoms or both. You also can list the cause of the symptoms and the quick-relief medicine used for asthma symptoms. This helps you to identify triggers that can be changed or avoided and to be aware of your child's symptoms. A plan also helps you make quick decisions about medicine and treatment.

actionset.gif Asthma: Using an Asthma Action Plan

See an example of an asthma action plan(What is a PDF document?).

Take medicines

Your child will take several types of medicines to control his or her asthma and to prevent attacks. These include:

  • Inhaled steroid (corticosteroid) medicines. These are for long-term treatment of asthma and are usually taken every day. They reduce inflammation in your child's airways camera.gif.
  • Short-acting beta2-agonists and anticholinergics (quick-relief medicines). These medicines are used for asthma attacks. They relax the airways, allowing your child to breathe easier.
  • Oral or injected steroid medicines. These may be used to get your child's asthma under control before he or she starts taking daily medicine. In the future, your child also may take these medicines to treat asthma attacks.

You and your child will learn how to use a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) or dry powder inhaler (DPI). An MDI delivers inhaled medicines directly to the lungs. Most doctors recommend using a spacer camera.gif with an MDI. For more information, see Medications.

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
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