Prevention and Treatment
For children with asthma, the best prevention for attacks is trigger avoidance. The most common treatment is steroids. Many young children take asthma medication through a nebulizer (a piece of equipment that forces air over liquid medication to create a mist, which patients then inhale through a mask). Older children may also use a metered dose inhaler, or MDI.
"The types of medications don't change from patient to patient," says Dr. Neaville. "What does change is dosage and delivery method. Controller medications are given, usually two times per day, to prevent symptoms. Rescue medications are provided to counteract asthma attacks."
Two classes of medications are currently used to treat asthma. One such class includes anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids and cromolyn sodium. Leukotriene modifiers may also be used in this class of medications. This new type of anti-inflammatory medication differs slightly from other anti-inflammatory medications in that it blocks leukotrienes, chemicals that cause inflammation.
Bronchodilators are the second class of asthma medications. By relaxing the bronchial muscles, bronchodilators dilate airways, allowing unobstructed airflow. Some bronchodilators are beta adrenergic antagonists, methylxanthines, and anticholinergics.
Zak's symptoms subsided significantly after he had his tonsils and adenoids removed at the age of five. Until that time, recurring colds and strep throat aggravated his asthma. According to Debi, "The colds and strep throat tapered off when he developed some immunities, but having his tonsils and adenoids removed helped his breathing immensely."
While the folkloric remedy of holding a Chihuahua to transfer asthma to the dog isn't likely to be effective, asthmatics have reported success with other natural treatments. These include chiropractic care, nutritional supplements, herbal and homeopathic remedies, and use of essential oils. Some supplements, herbs, and essential oils act as bronchodilators. They may also reduce inflammation, mucus, and seasonal allergies.
Michael Heinrich, at the Center for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, School of Pharmacy, in London, found that that some well-known herbs, such as curcumin (or tumeric) and milk thistle, can help open airways. In addition, licorice, Ginkgo biloba, and American angelica may also help alleviate asthma's symptoms. (Be sure to check with your doctor before trying any of these natural remedies.)