Managing Asthma in Children Ages 3 and 4

How do you treat asthma?

First figure out what triggers the attacks and then do your best to help your child avoid those triggers. Some children have attacks only when they have a cold, for example, while others have attacks after coming into contact with an allergen or an irritant like cigarette smoke. There are steps in managing asthma.

Stopping an asthma attack

Your doctor will probably prescribe one or more drugs for your child. Drugs known as quick relievers or rescue inhalers are used to stop an asthma attack. These fast-acting medications relieve the spasms in the airway, making breathing easier. Quick-reliever drugs such as albuterol are administered using either a nebulizer machine or a metered-dose inhaler (MDI).

A nebulizer is an electric or battery-powered machine that turns liquid medicine into a mist that your child can breathe into his lungs through a mask. Nebulized breathing treatments usually take about ten minutes.

An MDI is a small aerosol can that’s inserted into a long tube called a holding chamber or spacer, which has a mask or mouthpiece attached to it. The albuterol is sprayed into the holding chamber and then inhaled by your child as he breathes through the mask. This type of breathing treatment can be given in less than a minute.

The choice of a nebulizer or a metered-dose inhaler depends mostly on which device is easiest for you and your child to use. In general, they are equally effective at getting the medicine into the lungs to stop an asthma attack.

Preventing an asthma attack

Drugs known as controllers are used to prevent asthma attacks. These include inhaled steroids, which can help reduce inflammation and swelling and prevent your child from wheezing. Your child would take inhaled steroid medicine daily using either an MDI or a nebulizer, depending on the steroid prescribed by the doctor.

There is another controller medication for children 4 years and older with moderate to severe asthma that is difficult to control. It is a combination inhaled steroid and LABA (long-acting beta agonist).

A chewable non-steroid pill called a leukotriene antagonist is another option for decreasing inflammation and swelling. Your child’s doctor will recommend the type of daily controller medicine that’s best for your child’s asthma.

If your child’s asthma proves difficult to control, his doctor may refer him to an asthma specialist.

Make sure that your child’s teachers and any sitters responsible for your child’s care are familiar with his condition and know how to treat an asthma attack.


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