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Pediatric Asthma Protocols: What You Should Know About Asthma in Children

written by: Sarah Mitchell • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/26/2011

Asthma can potentially affect the health of children on a severe scale, more so than in adults. It is important to know the appropriate protocols in the diagnosis and treatment of children to best manage the disease.

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    According to “Treatment of Childhood Asthma,” authored by Bonnie McClain of Healthy Children Magazine, last updated August 11, 2010, “Asthma is the most common lasting disorder in childhood, currently affecting around 6.2 million Americans under 18 years of age.”

    Pediatric asthma protocols require an accurate diagnosis, although it is often difficult to diagnosis children since asthma symptoms mimic other health conditions. However, lung function tests (LFTs) in children over 6 will allow the doctor to narrow his or her symptoms down to the underlying cause.

    The results from such tests in children 3 to 6 years of age do not always reveal accurate measurements; therefore, the physician may use deductive reasoning based on symptoms provided and proceed with treatment.

    Children under 3 years old will, at times, be given medication if he or she presents with asthmatic symptoms. If symptoms improve, it generally gives the doctor an idea of the cause. Every so often, physicians may choose to monitor children at this young age due to the unknown lasting effects of asthma medications.

    A child’s doctor may request allergy skin testing if he or she believes asthma is allergy-induced. Skin testing will determine the allergen(s) responsible for triggering asthma symptoms and attacks, such as pet dander, dust or mold. Using the results, parents will be able to identify and eliminate any allergen triggers within their child’s home environment.

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    Asthma Treatment Options

    Proper treatment protocol as directed by a physician can reduce asthmatic symptoms and attacks. There are various types of medications used to treat and/or control asthma, including metered-dose and dry powder inhalers, inhalation solutions and oral prescriptions, each falling into one of two categories: quick-relief and maintenance.

    Quick-relief medications, or short-acting bronchodilators, open restricted airways and provide immediate symptom alleviation, lasting approximately four to six hours after use. They are not used for asthma control; therefore, children experiencing frequent or severe attacks may require an everyday maintenance drug. Albuterol is commonly prescribed as a short-acting bronchodilator.

    As the name suggests, maintenance, or long-term control, medications maintain and control symptoms, reducing the amount of recurrence. Inhaled corticosteroids are generally the first choice of health care providers. Other maintenance medications prescribed include leukotriene inhibitors, long-acting bronchodilators, inhaled nonsteroids, methylxanthines and combination inhalers.

    Unlike quick-relief medications, they do not provide symptomatic relief. Such medications are recommended for children experiencing frequent symptoms or who awake themselves overnight and are considered safe for most.

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    Disclaimer

    The preceding article is to be used for educational purposes only. A licensed physician should evaluate children exhibiting any signs or symptoms related to asthma.

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