An asthmatic child can live a regular life just like any other kid – so long as their condition is managed properly.  Asthma is caused by the airways in the lungs being inflamed. Attacks range in severity which can affect your child’s activities. Drugs and medication are used to control asthma.

If you’re concerned about your child’s asthma, what could trigger it, and what side effects could result from their medication, you’re not alone! Asthma is commonly controlled using these common drugs:

Common Asthma Medication

Asthma often requires long-term medication to be treated, and many parents worry if it’s too much. Just keep in mind that your child has a higher risk of an asthma attack if they use their reliever inhaler 3 or more times a week. It’s important that you and your child (but especially you!) understand the purpose of each drug that has been prescribed. During your child’s next medical check-up ask a doctor or nurse if they can go through the effects and benefits of the current medication.

Aspirin

Painkillers like aspirin or like ibuprofen and naproxen are known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS). They can also be used to treat fevers. However, there are a small minority of asthmatics who are allergic to these drugs. Apririn should not be given to children under the age of 3 as this has been linked with Reye’s syndrome. It is also not recommended for children who are recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms to take aspirin.

In that case, you should switch to safer alternatives that involve acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead. However, there are some studies that suggest that it might actually trigger asthma symptoms, so it’s not a perfect solution.

Some sufferers have what’s known as Samter’s triad—asthma, aspirin sensitivity and nasal polyps (soft growths on your nasal passages or sinuses) —and cannot take aspirin or NSAIDs. They commonly exhibit asthma symptoms like wheezing and nasal symptoms such as a runny nose.

If your child has Samter’s triad or any other allergic side effects from medication, ask your doctor if there are other options, like acetaminophen.

Beta Blockers and ACE inhibitors

Beta blockers are used in eye drops and to treat other common conditions like migraines. ACE inhibitors are used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. Studies show that the most common side effect is a dry cough, so if your kid feels uncomfortable after taking these drugs, once again remember to ask your doctor for alternatives.

Inhalers

Inhalers are broadly categorised into two categories: reliever inhalers and preventer inhalers. Reliever inhalers treat asthma symptoms quickly so that your child is less likely to have an asthma attack. Preventer inhalers prevent inflammation in your child’s airways and thus reduces sensitivity over time.  

Reliever inhalers are low-risk, as long your child doesn’t take extra doses beyond what has been planned. Using the inhaler more than thrice each week is an indication that your child’s asthma is not being managed well. This actually means that they are at a higher risk of having an asthma attack! In that case, it’s time to rework the asthma treatment plan with your child’s doctor.

Reliever inhalers should be used differently depending on how severe the asthma attack is. According to the British National Formulary for Children, if your child is suffering from an acute attack, give them puffs from the inhaler in 15-30 second intervals. Go on for a maximum of 10 puffs, then wait 10 minutes. If they are still not okay, call an ambulance and repeat for another 10 puffs. If their breathing improves after the initial puffs, then after 1 hour take another 4-6 puffs.

If your child is wheezing or is diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, they may also need to use their inhaler before physical activity.

Tablets

Most drugs have side effects, even if they just make you drowsy. This is true for steroid and preventer tablets, which are often prescribed to asthmatic children. It’s common for a drug like Montelukast to be prescribed as a preventer tablet, especially if their inhaler isn’t effective enough. Side effects include diarrhoea and vomiting. Talk to your doctor if the medicine either has severe side effects or isn’t working at all.

Laymen tend to conflate the steroids administered in asthma treatments with doping drugs, but that’s not true. These drugs are corticosteroids, which are also naturally produced by your own body. Nevertheless, these steroids can have side effects (just like any other medication), especially if your kid is taking long term steroids in a high dosage. A study has shown that some steroids like Qvar (beclomethasone dipropionate) can delay on the onset of puberty, but most will eventually grow to their predicted height.

Other side effects include being hungry more often or frequent mood swings. If you notice this happening in your kid, don’t be afraid to bring this up to the doctor or GP as soon as possible so they can adjust the medication to best suit your child’s needs.

Your doctor should have discussed these side effects with you when prescribing the medicine, but if you’re unclear then call the clinic or bring it up during your next consultation. Unless there are serious side effects, do make sure that your child completes their course of medication, since asthma will grow worse if not properly treated. Regularly taking medication will lower the risk of your child having a severe asthma attack and being sent to the hospital.

Overdose

Overdosing on asthma inhalers is referred to as Adrenergic Bronchodilators overdose. You can tell if your child is going through an overdose through these symptoms:

  • Decrease in urine output
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vision changes (e.g. blurry vision, dilated pupils)

Call a hospital immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Treatment may involve using activated charcoal to absorb the excess drugs or hooking a patient up to a ventilator, feeding or IV tube. It certainly is scary! To prevent an overdose, make sure to educate your child on how much medicine they should take each time. It would be best if you could monitor your child while they’re taking it, but you might not always be near them in times of emergency.

Just remember: the most common answer is always to ask your doctor or GP to clarify their treatment plan. Every asthma case is different, so what works for other children may not work for yours!

Do you have any experience with children who suffer from asthma? Maybe you had childhood asthma yourself. Share your experience with us in the comments below!

References:

“Aspirin and Other Drugs That May Trigger Asthma.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/medications-trigger-asthma#1.

“Nasal Polyps.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Mar. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nasal-polyps/symptoms-causes/syc-20351888.

Graham, Garry G., et al. “The Modern Pharmacology of Paracetamol: Therapeutic Actions, Mechanism of Action, Metabolism, Toxicity and Recent Pharmacological Findings.” Inflammopharmacology, vol. 21, no. 3, ser. 201-32, 30 June 2013, pp. 201–232. PubMed.gov,

US National Library of Medicine, doi:10.1007/s10787-013-0172-x.

Overlack, Axel. “ACE Inhibitor-Induced Cough and Bronchospasm. Incidence, Mechanisms and Management.” Drug Safety, vol. 15, no. 1, July 1996, pp. 72–78. PubMed.gov, US National Library of Medicine, doi:10.2165/00002018-199615010-00006.

“Preventer Inhalers | Asthma UK”. Asthma UK, 2018, https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/inhalers-medicines-treatments/inhalers-and-spacers/preventer/. Accessed 13 Dec 2018.

“Reliever Inhalers | Asthma UK”. Asthma UK, 2018, https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/inhalers-medicines-treatments/inhalers-and-spacers/reliever/. Accessed 13 Dec 2018.

“So You Have Asthma: A GUIDE FOR PATIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES”. Nhlbi.Nih.Gov, 2018, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/lung/SoYouHaveAsthma_PRINT-reduced-filesize.pdf. Accessed 5 Dec 2018.