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Treating Asthma in Babies and Younger Children

Topic Overview

Babies and small children need early treatment for asthma symptoms to prevent severe breathing problems. They may have more serious problems than adults because their bronchial tubes are smaller.

Although it may appear that occasional treatment with medicines for children who have mild asthma is enough, one review has noted that one-third of fatal asthma attacks occurred in children who had mild asthma.1 Even if your child's asthma does not appear severe, work with your doctor to make the right plan for your child.

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) recommends treatment with long-term medicines for infants and young children who:2

  • Consistently need treatment for symptoms on more than 2 days a week for longer than 4 weeks.
  • Have severe attacks more than once every 6 weeks.
  • Have had wheezing 4 or more times in the past year lasting longer than 1 day and affecting sleep and who have atopic dermatitis or a parent with asthma.
  • Have had wheezing 4 or more times in the past year lasting longer than 1 day and affecting sleep and two of the following four symptoms:
    • Wheezing not associated with colds.
    • Allergic rhinitis.
    • Evidence of sensitivity to some foods.
    • A high eosinophil count. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell often present in allergic reactions.

References

Citations

  1. Stempel DA (2003). The pharmacologic management of childhood asthma. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 50(3): 610–629.
  2. National Institutes of Health (2007). National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NIH Publication No. 08–5846). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/index.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lora J. Stewart, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised March 14, 2013

Last Revised: March 14, 2013

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