Treatments for Asthma in Children

Anxious boy using an inhaler outdoors
Asthma Treatment for Children. Seb Oliver / Getty Images

In the last few years, there have been a large variety of asthma medications that pediatricians and parents can use as an asthma treatment for kids with asthma. This has just added to the confusion of which medicine to use in different situations.

Basically, there are two types of medications:

  • Controller Asthma Medicines: These are also called preventative asthma medicines and are taken every single day to help prevent asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.
  • Quick-Relief Asthma Medicines: This type of asthma treatment can help your child when he has asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, or trouble breathing. Quick-relief asthma medicines are also called rescue medicines.

Controller Asthma Medicines

These types of asthma treatment can help prevent your child from having any symptoms of asthma. Examples of a controller or preventative asthma medicines include:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids such as Aerobid, Asmanex, Azmacort, Flovent HFA, Pulmicort (available as a Turbuhaler and Respules for use with nebulizers for younger kids), and Qvar
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists, such as Singulair, Accolate, and Zyflo
  • Theophylline
  • Other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory controller asthma medications include Intal and Tilade.
  • Xolair injections for children with allergic asthma.

It is important to remember that a controller asthma medicine won't treat or stop an asthma attack. Some doctors do recommend that you increase your controller medicine during an asthma attack, but that is in addition to using a quick-relief asthma treatment.

Quick-Relief Asthma Medicines

These types of asthma treatment actually provide relief when your child has asthma symptoms. They are usually given with a nebulizer or a metered dose inhaler. Younger children can often use an inhaler with a spacer or a spacer and mask. Examples of quick relief asthma medicines include:

  • Albuterol - Accuneb, Albuterol, Proventil, Ventolin (inhalation solution, nebules, HFA inhaler, inhaler, syrup, Rotacaps)
  • Levalbuterol - Xopenex Soln, Xopenex HFA
  • Pirbuterol - Maxair Autohaler (a breath actuated metered dose inhaler)
  • Terbutaline
  • Atrovent

Oral steroids are also often used as an asthma treatment when a child has an asthma attack. Forms of oral steroids include prednisone and prednisolone (Prelone and Orapred). In general, prednisone is prescribed for older kids who can swallow pills and prednisolone, a syrup, is used for younger children who can't swallow pills yet. And keep in mind that Orapred is typically thought to taste better than Prelone.

Asthma Treatment

An asthma action plan can make it easier to understand which medication is best for your child in different situations. If you aren't sure which asthma treatment is best for your child, review your asthma action plan. If you don't have an asthma action plan, either ask your doctor for one or consider seeing a Pediatric Pulmonologist for further management and asthma education.

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Article Sources
  • Advair, a combination corticosteroid, and long-acting beta2 agonist
  • Long-acting beta2 agonists, such as Serevent Diskus and Foradil