Asthma, a lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, is the most chronic health condition among children, and as of 2010, is on the increase. An estimated 10.2 million children in the United States have asthma, which translates to about 1 in 7 children, according to The Merck Childhood Asthma Network, Inc. Children are more likely to have asthma if they are from a family with a history of allergies or a family who smokes.
Goal of Treatment
Asthma treatment’s goal is to control the symptoms and the frequency of asthma attacks by optimizing lung function. Asthma that is under control means that your child will have few or no symptoms, few flare-ups, no limitations on physical activities, minimal use of inhalers and few or no side effects.
Preventing and Managing
Treating asthma involves preventing symptoms and managing an asthma attack. Preventive medicine controls the inflammation in your child’s lungs, and quick-relief medication opens the airways so that your child can breathe. Most children with asthma use a combination of long-term control medications along with quick-relief medications, such as an inhaler.
Treatment varies, depending on how severe your child’s asthma is. For example, a child with mild, intermittent asthma, which occurs two days or less per week or two nights or less per month, typically requires no daily medication. A child with mild, persistent asthma, which occurs more than two days per week (but less than once a day), or more than two nights per month, will probably take a low dosage of an inhaled corticosteroid. Moderate, persistent (a daily attack or an attack more than one night a month) and severe, persistent asthma (continual daytime symptoms and frequent nighttime symptoms) require higher dosages of medication.
Long-term asthma care is the key to controlling asthma flare-ups. For all but the mildest forms of asthma, your child should not rely solely on quick-relief medications. With the proper long-term care, your child will not need to use the inhaler frequently. If you notice that your child is using the inhaler frequently, talk to your doctor about adjusting the long-term treatment.
You, your child and your doctor need to monitor asthma treatment on an ongoing basis. You must recognize when the long-term treatment is not working well or whether your child’s symptoms are completely controlled. Your doctor may step up or step down treatment. You must also be able to identify an asthma attack and know when to seek emergency treatment. You can accomplish this by working with your doctor.