Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective treatment for asthma and are irreplaceable even for children. Compared to oral medications, inhaled steroids are given in miniscule amounts directly to the lungs and hence hardly cause any side-effects.
Even the mere thought of asthma in children can make parents lose their breath. And there are many parents, in fact millions of them, who are seeing their children fighting this dreadful disease. While some of them are able to help their children manage the disease and live normal lives, some are still helpless due to lack of awareness about asthma and advanced treatment options.
With prevalence of asthma ranging between 10% and 15% in 5-11-year old children in India, asthma is among the most common chronic diseases of childhood.
Although asthma can set in at any age (including infancy), a majority of children are diagnosed with asthma around the age of 5. Population studies have reported occurrence of at least one episode of wheezing in 1 out of three children by 3 years of age, which grows to almost one in two (50 percent) by the time they are 6 years old.
“A chronic (long-term) disease, asthma is caused due to blocking or narrowing of airways, which can result in shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and other symptoms. If case of severe symptoms, emergency treatment may be required to restore normal breathing”, explains Dr Sudhir Kumar, DM Pulmonary, Ramkrishna Welfare Hospital.
The first step for parents to help their children manage asthma is to be aware of the disease, its triggers and effective treatment and management techniques. It is important to know that different environmental factors, including cold air, allergens (including mold, pollen, dust mites, animal dander and cockroach debris), exercise and some viral infections can trigger symptoms of asthma.
Dr. Vinit Niranjane, Pulmonologist, Chest Care Clinic, explains an asthma attack thus. “The exposure of airways to any of the asthma triggers causes the tissue inside the bronchi and bronchioles to inflame (inflammation), accompanied by the constriction of (tightening up) of the muscles present on the outside of the airways, thereby causing them to narrow. Further, the secretion of mucus makes the bronchioles swollen. It results in the narrowing of breathing passages and makes breathing difficult.”
“This kind of response to irritants is normal in all humans. The difference being while the healthy can get away with minor irritation, people living with asthma experience severe symptoms due to hyperactive airways,” says Dr. Dinesh Wagh, Chest Physician, Sahaydri Hospital
While some mild cases of asthma may subside on their own, treatment to control or prevent the attacks is a norm in a majority of cases. Depending on the severity and frequency of attacks, the pulmonologist decides the therapy, medication and dosage.
Among different treatment options, corticosteroids are known to be consistently effective medication for long-term control. A daily dose of inhaled corticosteroids can be prescribed for children with moderate to severe persistent asthma. “A metered-dose inhaler (MDI) is used to administer inhaled anti-inflammatory medication to ensure that the patient receives only the prescribed dosage of medication.
Researchers recommend inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) as an effective anti-inflammatory medication for successful management of persistent asthma in children”, says Dr Vijay Surana, Chest Physician, Surana Chest Hospital. The use of ICS has been found to reduce symptoms, minimize bronchial hyper-responsiveness, improve lung function, and reduce the frequency of exacerbations and decrease asthma mortality and morbidity.
For children, long-term use of oral medications is generally avoided due to the potential systemic (total body) side-effects they are known to occur. In any case, it is important to strictly adhere to the medication dosage prescribed by the doctor.
Long-acting bronchodilators are also used for treating asthma as they help relax the muscles around the airways, thereby ensuring easy breathing. However, they are also found to be associated with some side-effects, including dry mouth, nervousness and rapid heartbeat. Therefore, as with any medications, it advised to ask your doctor about the side-effects the medication may offer and the safety measures to take.
The efficacy of inhaled corticosteroids in treating and managing asthma is proven. However, no drug can be effective until people try to understand asthma as an illness rather than fearing it. For all parents who have children suffering from asthma, it's important to know everything about asthma, from potential triggers to how to administer the medication. This will allow your child to manage asthma successfully and lead a normal and happy life.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
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