How is Asthma Treated in Very Young Children?
- Babies or toddlers can use most medications used for older children and adults. The dosage, of course, is lower, and the way the medication is given is different. Inhaled medications are preferred because they generally act more rapidly to reduce symptoms and produce fewer side effects.
- Medications to treat asthma symptoms in infants and toddlers are usually given in a tasty liquid form or with a nebulizer. A nebulizer (sometimes referred to as a "breathing machine") is a small machine that uses forced air to create a "medication mist" for the baby to breath through a small face mask. Nebulizer treatments take about 10 minutes and are given several times each day until symptoms decrease. Although a nebulizer treatment is gentle, babies and young children often are frightened by the mask and fight the treatment at first.
- Some toddlers are able to use an inhaler containing asthma medication with a spacer and mask attachment. A spacer is a small tube, or "aerochamber," which holds the medication released by the inhaler fitted into it. The inhaler/spacer device allows children to breathe in the medication at their own speed plus spacers add to medication possibilities.
- Various medications are used to treat asthma. Bronchodilators (Proventil, Ventolin) are "quick relief" medications, opening up airways immediately to make breathing easier. "Long term control" medications such as corticosteroids (Prelone, Pediapred) or cromolyn sodium (Intal) help keep asthma symptoms at a minimum. Most people with asthma, including very young children, use a combination of medications, depending on severity and frequency of symptoms. Work with their health care providers to develop an asthma care management plan for your child.
What Can be Done to Reduce Asthma Symptoms?
- You can reduce asthma symptoms by controlling allergy triggers in your child's environment. Concentrate on the bedroom, where very young children spend as much as 12-18 hours each day. Cover the pillows, mattress and box springs in allergen-proof casings. Wash bed linens weekly in 130-degree water. Use washable area carpets. Buy only washable stuffed animals. Vacuum weekly or more. Don't allow pets in the bedroom/house. Restrict smoking in the house (even if someone smokes in the basement of a multi-storied house, smoke filters through the vents to all parts of the house). Use air cleaners with a HEPA filter (only for animal dander sensitive children if there is an animal in the home).