Any asthma symptom, whether mild or severe, is always serious; even mild symptoms can quickly become life-threatening. Poorly controlled and undiagnosed asthma in small children can result in trips to the emergency room, hospital stays, missed workdays for parents and suffering that small children are unable to express. It’s very important that an asthmatic child receive proper treatment.
The treatment will depend on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. To deal with childhood asthma, the doctor may prescribe two types of medicines:
- Quick relief: Any child who has asthma needs a quick-relief medicine to treat the noisy part of the disease — the coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath that occur with symptoms or an asthma attack. This medicine (typically an inhaler) should be with the child at all times for use at the first sign of symptoms.
- Long-term control: This type of medicine is needed by some children to treat the quiet part of asthma — the inﬂammation of the airways. It is taken daily to prevent asthma symptoms and attacks.
Your child can take both medicines using an inhaler with a device called a holding chamber (which helps to ensure that all the medication reaches the lungs) or through a nebulizer, a machine that includes compressor tubing and a mask to help deliver the medication. Your child’s doctor, nurse or pharmacist can teach you how to use both so you can determine what works best.
Asthma medicines are very safe and effective when used as directed. Some studies have suggested that continued use of long-term control medicines can slightly slow a child’s growth, but being able to breathe outweighs this risk.
If medications don’t help, or your child can’t avoid asthma triggers, you’ll need to determine whether the symptoms are triggered by exposure to an allergen, such as pet dander or pollen. If that’s the case, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be an option and are often recommended.
If you think that your child might have asthma, speak to your pediatrician or to an allergist. An allergist can help you create an asthma action plan so that you know when your child’s asthma is under control, when you need to change medicines and when emergency help is needed. An asthma action plan should have goals for your child’s asthma treatment and health.
Children with asthma should get a flu shot each fall. Those with egg allergies should not get the nasal-spray version of the flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The injected version of the vaccine does contain a very small amount of egg protein but generally causes no problems for those allergic to eggs. To be on the safe side, children who are allergic to eggs should get their flu shot in their doctor’s office, and not at a drugstore or a supermarket pharmacy.
With the right treatment, your child can sleep through the night, avoid missing time from day care or preschool and breathe easily.