Baby Asthma Basics

How Is It Treated?

Managing asthma requires a lot of discussion with your doctor to learn how to use your child's medications and monitor his breathing, and to know when your child needs to be seen by a doctor. Asthma severity can change a lot over the course of a year, as the seasons change. It can also change as a child grows older. I see my patients with asthma at least every three months so we can go over all of these topics and make adjustments to medications as needed.

Children are typically given two types of medication for asthma:

For quick relief of an asthma attack: The most common medication for immediate relief from asthma symptoms is albuterol. It can be given as a liquid, but the most effective way to administer it to babies is through a machine called a nebulizer, or with a handheld inhaler. The nebulizer turns the medication into a mist so it can be inhaled directly into the lungs via a mask. Albuterol opens up the lungs and relieves the constriction of the airways so your child can take in more air. The medicine works very quickly, usually within a few minutes of inhalation. But be aware that it makes infants hyper, and perhaps jittery.

If an asthma attack is especially severe, your child may also be given another medication -- corticosteroids -- in a liquid or pill form, or intravenously, for three to five days, in addition to the albuterol.

For long-term prevention of the irritation and inflammation of the airways: If your baby is experiencing wheezing that requires albuterol treatments more than two or three times a week, your doctor will want to add a preventive medication to his regimen. Besides preventing the wheezing that can escalate to severe breathing problems, preventative medications are important to avoid long-term scarring of the lungs from continual swelling and inflammation. Two kinds of anti-inflammatory medications are used for prevention in young children: cromolyn sodium and inhaled corticosteroids. To work, both have to be taken every day, whether or not your child has symptoms. Cromolyn sodium takes effect after four weeks of use; corticosteroids, after two weeks.

Cromolyn sodium is very safe, with few side effects. If your child has more severe asthma, he may need corticosteroids in an inhaled mist form. They go directly to the lungs and have fewer side effects on the body than the pill or liquid steroids sometimes given during an asthma attack.

The goal of treatment is for your child not to experience any symptoms or breathing limitations, so he can be involved in all physical activities, just like any other child.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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