Although your child's
asthma cannot be cured, you can manage the symptoms
with medicines and other measures.
It's very important to treat your child's asthma. Although he or she may feel
good most of the time, even mild asthma can cause changes
to the airways that speed up and make worse the natural decrease in lung
function that occurs as we age.12
Your child can expect to live a normal life by following his or her asthma action plan. Asthma symptoms
that are not controlled can limit your child's activities and lower his or her
quality of life.
Know the goals of treatment
By following your child's treatment plan, you can help your child meet these
- Increase lung function by treating the
inflammation in the lungs.
- Decrease the
severity, frequency, and duration of
asthma attacks by avoiding
- Treat acute attacks as they
- Use quick-relief medicine less (ideally on not more than 2
days a week).
- Have a full life—the ability to
participate in all daily activities, including school, exercise, and
recreation—by preventing and managing symptoms.
- Sleep through the
night undisturbed by asthma symptoms.
- Asthma: Taking Charge of Your Asthma
Babies and small children need early treatment for asthma
symptoms to prevent severe breathing problems. They may have more serious
problems than adults because their bronchial tubes are smaller.
Follow your child's action plan
An asthma action plan tells you which medicines your
child takes every day and how to treat
asthma attacks. It may also include an
asthma diary where your child records
peak expiratory flow (PEF), symptoms, triggers, and
quick-relief medicine used for asthma symptoms. This helps you to identify
triggers that can be changed or avoided and to be aware of your child's symptoms. A plan also helps you make quick decisions about medicine and treatment.
- Asthma: Using an Asthma Action Plan
See an example of an asthma action plan (What is a PDF document?).
Your child will take several types of medicines to control his or her asthma and to prevent attacks. These include:
- Oral or injected corticosteroids. These medicines may be used to get your child's
asthma under control before he or she starts taking daily medicine. In the
future, your child also may take oral or injected corticosteroids to treat asthma attacks.
- Inhaled corticosteroids. These are for long-term treatment of asthma. They reduce inflammation in your child's airways.
- Short-acting beta2-agonists and anticholinergics (quick-relief medicines). These medicines are used
for asthma attacks. They relax the airways, allowing your child to breathe
You and your child will learn how to use a metered-dose
inhaler (MDI) or dry powder inhaler (DPI). An MDI
delivers inhaled medicines directly to the lungs. Most doctors recommend using a
spacer with an MDI.
- Asthma: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler
- Asthma: Using a Dry Powder Inhaler
Go to checkups
Your child needs to
monitor his or her asthma and have regular checkups to
keep asthma under control and to ensure the right treatment. The frequency of
checkups depends on how your child's asthma is
Monitor peak flow
It is easy to underestimate the severity of your child's symptoms.
You may not notice them until his or her lungs are functioning at 50% of the
personal best peak expiratory flow (PEF).
PEF is a way to keep track of asthma symptoms at home. It can help you and your
child know when lung function is becoming worse before it drops to a
dangerously low level. This is done with a
peak flow meter.
- Asthma: Measuring Peak Flow
triggers increases symptoms. Try to avoid situations
that expose your child to irritants (such as smoke or air pollution) or
substances (such as
animal dander) to which he or she may be allergic.
- Asthma: Identifying Your Triggers
Get help for special concerns
things to think about in treating asthma include:
- Managing exercise-induced asthma. Exercise often
causes asthma symptoms. Steps you and your child can take to reduce the risk of
this include using medicine immediately before exercising.
- Managing asthma before surgery. Children with moderate to severe asthma are at
higher risk of having problems during and after surgery than children who do
not have asthma. Before any surgery is done, make sure your child's surgeon knows that your child has asthma.
- Taking care of other health problems. If your child also has other health problems, such as
inflammation and infection of the sinuses (sinusitis) or
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), he or she will
need treatment for those conditions.
Know what to do if asthma gets worse
asthma is not improving, talk with your doctor
- Review your child's asthma diary to see if he or she has a new
or previously unidentified
trigger, such as
animal dander. Talk to your doctor about how best to
- Review your child's medicines to be sure he or she
is using the right ones and using them correctly.
- Review your child's
asthma action plan to be sure it is still right
for his or her condition.
- Find out whether your child has a
condition with symptoms similar to asthma, such as
If your child's medicine is not working to control airway
inflammation, your doctor will first check to see whether your child is using
inhaler correctly. If your child is using it
correctly, your doctor may increase the dosage, switch to another medicine, or
add a medicine to the existing treatment.
child's asthma does not improve with treatment, he or she may require more treatment, including larger doses of corticosteroids or other
medicines. An asthma specialist typically prescribes these medicines.
Plan for emergencies
If your child has a severe
asthma attack (the
red zone of the asthma action plan), give him or her medicine based on the
action plan. Talk with a doctor right away about
what to do next. This is especially important if your child's
peak expiratory flow (PEF) does not return to the
green zone or stays within the
yellow zone after he or she takes medicine.
may have to go to the hospital or go to the emergency room for
At the hospital, your child will probably receive
inhaled beta2-agonists and
corticosteroids. He or she may be given
oxygen therapy. Doctors will assess your child's lung
function and condition. Depending on the response, further treatment in the
emergency room or a stay in the hospital may be needed.