Treatment Options

If it’s correctly managed, most kids with asthma can live healthy lives full of running, sports and play.

Our team works with each patient and his or her family to understand any environmental or activity triggers that may be making a child’s asthma worse and then develops a plan to control them. We educate patients and families on how to manage asthma at home, including flare-ups and how to monitor asthma severity over time.

We treat children with all levels of asthma — from mild to severe cases that sometimes require hospitalization. Our team has extensive experience treating critically ill asthma patients in the intensive care unit and preparing them to manage their condition after leaving the hospital.

Treatment depends on a variety of individual factors, and we work with families to create custom treatment plans for each patient. Depending on the patient, treatments can include traditional medication, environmental changes and integrative medicine — all designed to effectively control asthma symptoms with the fewest possible side effects.

Integrative medicine treatments for asthma

Integrative medicine uses a combination of conventional and unconventional treatments to improve health and asthma symptoms and even reduce the need for traditional medicine in some cases.

Regardless of which integrative therapy you’re considering, the best first step is to talk over your options with an asthma specialist, who can discuss the risks and benefits of each option. While some high-quality studies have shown that certain non-conventional treatments are effective, others have shown mixed results, and some complementary treatments do not lend themselves well to traditional medical research.

Here are four of the most popular integrative asthma treatments to discuss with your doctor.

  1. Some studies show that diets high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fruits, vegetables and fish, may help improve asthma symptoms. Magnesium, found in nuts, beans, and dark, leafy greens, may also improve breathing. But dietary supplements can interact with traditional medications, so be sure to check with your doctor before turning to pills or powders to add more of these vitamins and minerals into your diet.
  1. Mind–body therapies. Stress can make airway inflammation worse, so therapies designed to reduce stress and anxiety can help improve asthma symptoms. One of the most popular options is yoga, which has the added benefit of teaching controlled breathing. Other therapies include self-hypnosis and meditation, both of which are designed to reduce stress and anxiety. Tai chi and qi-gong have been used to treat asthma for centuries. Aromatherapy is also a common approach, although we need more research to determine its effectiveness.
  1. Sleep and exercise. Better sleep can help improve asthma symptoms. If breathing issues are keeping you up at night, check out these eight tips to get a better night’s sleep and consider consulting a Stanford Children’s Health sleep specialist. Structured exercise can also help improve asthma symptoms. In the past, swimming was seen as the best asthma-friendly exercise, but recent research has shown that any regular exercise that doesn’t aggravate symptoms can be valuable. Yoga is a popular choice, because it includes cardio, controlled breathing and relaxation.
  1. Traditional Chinese medicine. Treatments like acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies have been used for centuries to treat asthma, and there’s some evidence they may help improve symptoms. Be sure to check with your asthma specialist before trying any herbal remedies since their active ingredients can be hard to figure out and may interact with conventional asthma medicines.

Before considering any of these alternative approaches, see an asthma specialist to develop a treatment plan. This plan will outline any medications you’re prescribed and describe their roles, and it will also suggest changes to your environment and other tools you can use to help you manage your asthma without medication, including meeting with a registered dietician, increasing exercise, practicing relaxation techniques and engaging in stress-reduction counseling, if necessary.