A doctor can prescribe medicine that will control the child’s symptoms, though they cannot actually cure asthma itself. There are two different types of medication available: anti-inflammatories, which prevent attacks, and bronchodilators, which relieve attacks. Most medications come in an inhaler. Children should always use their inhalers with a device called a spacer.
Bronchodilators When an asthma attack occurs, a bronchodilator makes breathing easier by relaxing the tiny muscles around the narrowed airways and allowing them to open up. A child who suffers occasional asthma attacks must have bronchodilator medicine on hand at all times.
Anti-inflammatory A child will probably have to take anti-inflammatory medication if she usually needs to use a bronchodilator more than once a day. These stop asthma from starting by reducing any inflammation of the airways and making them less sensitive to irritants. Anti-inflammatory must be taken regularly, even if the child is well. They take about 7-14 days to become effective from the time they are first taken. Once the symptoms are under good control, your child’s doctor may decide to reduce the dosage. If your child needs to use both types of medication, it is always a good idea to label the inhalers clearly.
Spacers Only about 10-20 percent of asthma medicine actually reaches the lungs. A young child needs to use her inhaler with spacer to ensure that the correct dose gets to the airways. Spacers can be obtained on prescription. A mask should be used with a spacer for children under four or until the spacer mouthpiece alone is effective. Alternatively, a very small spacer called an aero chamber is suitable for children of all ages and fits all inhalers.
If your child finds it hard to take inhaled medicine, you could try using the spacer when she is asleep. If she knocks the spacer away from her mouth, gently wrap her arms around her chest. For an older child, turn the spacer into a toy by putting stickers on it, or play games in which you count out loud as your child takes five breaths from the spacer.
Some very young children need a nebulizer, which produces a very fine mist of medicine. For most children, however, spacers are the best solution.
A metered dose is inhaled directly into the lungs. This is the most effective method of delivery.
Sometimes children over three years old are given dry-powder inhalers. These are good for giving anti-inflammatory medicines, but they cannot be inhaled very well when the child is wheezing or is tight chested. An aerosol may still be needed for relieving these symptoms.
Young children very quickly get used to the routine of taking their asthma medicine.
Inhaling is the most effective method of using asthma medicine. Young children are not skilled at using inhalers, so a spacer ensures that the medicine gets to the lungs.