Pediatric Asthma Treatment

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.

Asthma treatment depends on a variety of individual factors, and we will work with your family to create a custom treatment plan for your child.

Depending on the patient, asthma treatments can include traditional medication, environmental changes, and integrative medicine—all designed to effectively control asthma symptoms with the fewest possible side effects.

Traditional medication

In general, asthma that is called “persistent” is treated with inhaled steroid medication to control the asthma. Some people are worried about possible side effects with inhaled steroids. Talk to your asthma specialist about these concerns. The aim of treatment is to provide enough asthma control using the lowest dose of medicine that a child can learn, sleep, and play without symptoms getting in the way and to prevent serious asthma flare-ups.

A rescue inhaler is also prescribed for times when quick relief is needed.

For more severe cases, other medications may be needed for control that may consist of combination inhaler medicines, other types of inhaled medications, and sometimes oral medications. The most severe asthmatics may require injected medicines that can be given in the office, at the hospital, or in home settings.

Our team provides patients and families teaching on how and when to use these. Written instructions are provided in the form of an “Asthma Action Plan.”

Environmental changes

The type of environmental changes that are recommended depend on what triggers an individual’s asthma. Things that can trigger asthma include poor air quality, tobacco smoke, viral respiratory illnesses, cleaning products, pets with fur or feathers, pests (such as cockroaches or mice), dust mites, and mold. Limiting, stopping, or preventing exposure to these triggers is an important part of asthma control.

Pediatric asthma treatment with an integrative approach

Integrative medicine uses a combination of conventional and nonconventional asthma 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 child’s options with a pediatric asthma specialist, who can discuss the risks and benefits of each option. While some high-quality studies have shown that certain nonconventional 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 child’s doctor:

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 child’s doctor before turning to pills or powders to add more of these vitamins and minerals into the diet.
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.
Better sleep can help improve asthma symptoms. If breathing issues are keeping your child up at night, check out these eight tips to get a better night’s sleep, and consider consulting a Stanford Medicine 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.

Treatments like acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies have been used for centuries to treat asthma, and there’s some evidence that they may help improve symptoms. Be sure to check with your pediatric 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 a specialist to develop an asthma treatment plan. This plan will outline any medications your child is prescribed and describe their roles, and it will also suggest changes to your child’s environment and other tools you can use to help you manage your child’s asthma without medication, including meeting with a registered dietitian, increasing exercise, practicing relaxation techniques, and engaging in stress-reduction counseling, if necessary.