How to Treat Asthma in Kids

By  , Expert Content
Jan 21, 2013

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Asthma is a chronic disease and it may not be cured. But your child’s symptoms and acute asthma attacks can be managed effectively with medications such as inhaled corticosteroids and beta2-agonists. Children tend to have more severe symptoms as their airways (bronchial tubes) are smaller as compared to adults. If your child has symptoms of asthma consult your doctor to make the right plan for your child. Experts say that early and appropriate treatment of asthma in children can help to prevent severe asthma problems.


[Read: Foods that Fight Asthma]


Your doctor will prescribe medications to control asthma symptoms and aims of treatment are to:

  • improve lung function by controlling inflammation in the lungs.
  • control the symptoms, severity, frequency, and duration of asthma attacks by medicines and avoiding triggers.
  • control acute symptoms as they occur.
  • use loss of quick-relief medicine (if possible not more than 2 days a week).
  • control symptoms so that the child has a good quality of life (like the child should be able participate in all daily activities in school and home, play and do exercise)
  • sleep well at night undisturbed by asthma symptoms.

Treatment of Acute Asthma Symptoms

If you have asthma action plan for your child start the medicines based on the action plan and then consult your doctor. If your child has severe symptoms start the medications and consult your doctor immediately.

The medications used for rapid control of symptoms include short-acting inhaled or oral beta2 agonists, short-course of oral corticosteroids or anti-cholinergics (such as ipratropium). These are also known as quick relief medicines or rescue medications. Take these medicines as per your asthma action plan or your doctor’s advice. These are meant for use during an acute asthma attack and not as a replacement of controller drugs. Use of controller medicines should not be stopped during an asthma attack.


[Read: How to Control Asthma Symptoms]



  • Short-acting beta-agonists (such as salbutamol) are most often used as rescue medications. These medications have a rapid onset of action (begin to work within minutes to relieve broncho-constriction), and the effects can last for four hours—your doctor may advice you to give the medicines frequently. The medication can be given by a metered dose inhaler (MDI) or nebulizer.
  • Ipratropium bromide (it is an anticholinergic) is another type of rescue medications given during asthma attacks. Like the beta-agonists this anticholinergic also helps to open the airways and it can be used along with beta-agonist. The combined effect of the two medications is better than either drug alone.
  • Corticosteroids: Inhaled corticosteroids (such as budecort, beclomethasone and triamcinolone) or oral corticosteroids such as prednisolone are an important for rapid control of asthma symptoms. The wide-ranging anti-inflammatory activity of these drugs makes them effectiveboth as preventive therapy and quick relief medication.

Long term control of asthma symptoms: Your doctor will prescribe medications for long termcontrol of asthma symptoms. The medications given for control of symptoms include the quick-relief medications and long term control medications.

  • Quick-relief medications: These medications are used to provide prompt relief from an acute asthma attack.
  • Long-term control medications: These medications have to be taken daily to maintain control of symptoms over a long term. They act by controlling airway inflammationwhich is the cause for symptoms of asthma and acute asthma attack.


[Read: Foods that Cause Asthma]


Medications for Long-term control: Commonly prescribed controller medicines for asthma include;

  • Inhaled corticosteroids (such as budecort, beclomethasone and triamcinolone) or oral corticosteroids such as prednisolone. Steroids form an important part of short and long-term-control therapyfor asthma.Their wide-ranging anti-inflammatory activity makes them effectiveboth for preventive therapy and quick relief medication.
  • Long acting b2agonistssuch as Salmeterol and formoterol.These drugs can effectively reduce  broncho-constriction for 12 hours or longer and there-by help to control symptoms of asthma. They can probably reduce inflammation, but are not effective in controlling the underlying cause of the asthma attack.
  • Leukotriene inhibitors such as Zileuton, zafirlukast and montelukast are controller medications.These drugs reduce the broncho-constriction for about 12 hours and control symptoms of asthma. They can probably reduce inflammation, but are not effective in controlling the underlying cause of the asthma attack.
  • Methylxanthines,Cromolyn sodium, nedocromil sodium and Omalizumab are some other controller medications.

Monitor your child’s asthma symptoms and go for regular checkups to keep asthma under control and to ensureappropriate treatment.The medications for asthma are prescribed based on the symptoms and frequency of acute episodes of asthma. All the medications used for treatment of asthma can have side effects -- so do not make changes in medications of their dose without consulting your child’s doctor. Follow your doctor’s recommendations to achieve optimal control of your symptoms.


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