Tag: asthma

Treating Hard To Control Asthma

Does your child have asthma?

Are his asthma symptoms easy to control or are they getting in the way of doing routine things, like sleeping through the night or playing outside with friends?

What Triggers Your Child’s Asthma?

As with many other childhood conditions, it is often better to avoid asthma flareups instead of trying to treat them.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy though.

Still, you might try to avoid common asthma triggers, such as:

  • allergies – dust mites, pet dander, mold, pollen, etc.
  • exercise
  • infections
  • smoke
  • pollution
  • weather changes

Keep track of your child’s symptoms to see if you can identify any triggers.

Asthma Treatments for Kids

The most common treatment for asthma symptoms are the quick-relief medications, including albuterol (ProAir, Ventolin, Proventil) and levalbuterol (Xopenex). Either with a nebulizer, inhaler with a spacer, or inhaler alone, they can help when your child is coughing and wheezing.

If your child has severe or frequent asthma symptoms or attacks, the next treatment step is to use a long-term control medication, starting with an inhaled steroid (Alvesco, Asmanex, Flovent, Pulmicort, Qvar) and moving to a combined inhaled steroid and long acting beta-agonist (Advair, Dulera, Symbicort) if necessary.

Other asthma treatments can include:

  • oral steroids – often used short term for asthma flares with quick-relief medications
  • leukotriene modifiers – Singulair (montelukast) is a once-a-day pill that can be used to prevent both allergies and asthma in some kids

An asthma action plan can help make sure you know how and when to use your child’s asthma medications.

Treating Hard To Control Asthma

What do you do if your child’s asthma medicines aren’t working?

If your child continues to have regular asthma symptoms or attacks, ask yourself these questions and share the answers with your pediatrician:

  • Is your child really using his inhaler? Non-compliance is the most common reason for kids to have poorly controlled asthma. Remember, long-term control medications are used every day, even when your child doesn’t have any asthma symptoms. They prevent asthma attacks and asthma symptoms that can be treated with the as need use of your child’s quick-relief medications.
  • Is your child using his inhaler correctly? If not, his asthma medicine might not be making it to his lungs where it needs to go to work.
  • Is your child with exercise-induced asthma using his quick-relief inhaler before exercise?
  • Does your child need a step-up in therapy? Long-term control medications are available in a variety of strengths and your child may need a higher dosage if she is still having asthma symptoms. Or she may need to move from an inhaled steroid to a combined inhaled steroid and long acting beta-agonist inhaler.
  • Would allergy testing help you identify your child’s triggers?
  • Does your child have acid reflux?
  • Could stress be triggering your child’s asthma symptoms?
  • Does your child really have asthma? Both vocal cord dysfunction and exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction are asthma mimics that can be misdiagnosed as asthma.

A pediatric allergist and/or a pediatric pulmonologist can help your child with hard to control asthma.

What To Know About Treating Hard To Control Asthma

Asthma can be a life-threatening condition, so be sure to seek extra help if your child has difficult to control symptoms, especially if you have already tried many of these classic asthma treatments.

For More Information About Treating Hard To Control Asthma

Treating Hard to Control Reflux

Acid reflux is common, especially for newborns and infants.

Many parents are surprised to know that reflux can affect older kids too though. Fortunately, reflux is temporary for most of these kids and can be easily treated.

It can be even easier to treat younger kids, most of whom don’t need any treatment if they are just messy and don’t have true acid reflux disease.

Happy Spitters and Reflux Symptoms

Children who spit up have acid reflux or more specifically gastroesophageal reflux (GER).

Many babies spit up or have reflux.
Many babies spit up or have reflux, but most are just “happy spitters” and don’t need treatment. Photo by Ryan Dickey (CC BY 2.0)

They may not have acid reflux disease though (GERD), with other associated signs and symptoms, such as:

  • refusing to eat
  • recurrent vomiting
  • weight loss or poor weight gain (failure to thrive)
  • irritability or trouble sleeping
  • respiratory symptoms, such as a chronic cough, hoarse voice or cry, or hard to control asthma, etc.
  • Sandifer syndrome – reflux plus head tilting and back arching

Without any of these symptoms, your baby who spits up, even if it is very frequent and it seems like they spit up a large amount each time, is likely what is classically called a “happy spitter.” If they are just messy, they don’t need any treatment and you can wait until they outgrow their reflux.

Remember – “Spit Happens.”

Older children with acid reflux might complain of heartburn, chest pain, or say that they have a sour taste in their mouth (sour burps).

Lifestyle Changes for Reflux

Once you recognize that your child has GERD and needs to be treated, you might start with these lifestyle changes:

  • avoiding milk and dairy products for two to four weeks if you are breastfeeding an infant with GERD
  • changing baby formula to an extensively hydrolyzed protein (Nutramigen, Gerber Extensive HA, Alimentum) or amino acid–based infant formula if your formula fed baby has GERD
  • thickening your baby’s formula (typically about one tablespoon of rice cereal per every one to two ounces of formula) vs switching to a baby formula for reflux (Enfamil AR or Similac Sensitive R.S.)
  • making sure you aren’t overfeeding your baby, including that you don’t re-feed your baby right after they spit up
  • avoiding seated and supine (on his back) positions after feedings, although you shouldn’t put your baby down prone (on his stomach) if he is going to fall asleep (risk factor for SIDS)
  • helping older children with acid reflux lose weight if they are overweight and making sure they don’t smoke or drink alcohol
  • encouraging older children to avoid acid reflux triggers, especially caffeine, chocolate, foods with acid, and spicy foods

When can you expect your infant’s reflux to go away? In most babies, reflux symptoms peak at about 4 months and go away by the time they are 12 to 18 months old. In older children, reflux symptoms generally go away after a few months of appropriate treatment.

Acid Reflux Medicines

If lifestyle changes aren’t working, your child with reflux likely needs medicine to treat his reflux.

These acid reflux medications include:

  • antacids – may be okay in older children with very rare symptoms, but not for routine use
  • histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) – such as Zantac (ranitidine) – works quickly, but may stop working over time (tachyphylaxis)
  • proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – such as Prevacid (over-the-counter for adults) and Nexium (Nexium packets are FDA approved for infants) – considered more potent and superior to H2RAs but may take up to four days to start working
  • prokinetic agents – rarely used because of side-effects

In general, if your child’s symptoms improve or go away within two weeks of taking an acid reflux medication, then you should likely continue it for at least two to three months.

Treating Hard to Control Reflux

What do you do when lifestyle changes and reflux medicines don’t work or symptoms return after you stop your child’s reflux medicine?

First, make sure you are giving the right medicine, the right dosage of medicine, and are giving it at the right time, keeping in mind that PPIs should be giving 30 minutes before a meal.

Next, consider if there are any other lifestyle changes that you can try. For example, you might encourage your older child with persistent reflux to eat smaller meals more frequently, avoid a bedtime snack, and you may even elevate the head of his bed by about 30 degrees.

Lastly, you might make sure that your child really does have reflux.

Just because your baby is fussy and wakes up a lot at night, it doesn’t automatically mean that he has reflux. It could instead be colic, or be related to a food intolerance or allergy, with breastfeeding mothers needing to go on a more restrictive diet or infants drinking a hydrolyzed formula might need to switch to an elemental formula (Elecare, Neocate, or PurAmino).

Older kids with difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), which is often blamed on acid reflux, might have post-nasal drip caused by allergies or a sinus infection, etc.

And even if truly spitting up, instead of GERD, a child might have any number of other conditions instead of GERD, from an intestinal obstruction to a metabolic disorder.

It is usually at this point, when classic acid reflux treatments aren’t working, that a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist would be a good idea.

What To Know About Acid Reflux

Acid reflux in kids is usually temporary and can often be controlled with lifestyle changes and medications, but unfortunately, acid reflux symptoms are not always caused by reflux, leading to some treatment failures.

For More Information on Acid Reflux