Q: My child has a bad cough and is wheezing. The doctor prescribed albuterol, but isn't that a drug used to treat asthma?
A: You're right, albuterol is a "bronchodilator" used to open the muscles around the airways of people with asthma. But it is also prescribed for children who have developed narrowing in their lungs that's causing difficulty breathing and coughing. Although albuterol won't help your child kick her cough any faster, it will help her breathe easier until the bug runs its course. Albuterol comes in both liquid and inhaled forms. FYI: The liquid does have a nasty taste, but many docs prescribe it for one-time use, since it can be difficult for young children to use the inhaled version without additional pricey equipment (like an aero chamber or nebulizer) that insurance may not cover.
For some children, these wheezing coughs can become chronic, but many recover quickly and never have symptoms again. So just because your pediatrician prescribed albuterol once doesn't mean your child has asthma, it simply means that your doctor is treating her needs at this particular moment.