Franco also advises patients who are allergic to dust mites to use covers for pillows and mattresses, to eliminate items that collect dust like stuffed animals and books, and to avoid using a fan, which moves dust around.
To treat asthma, doctors use both rescue therapies and preventative therapies, Martinez said. Rescue therapies include bronchodilators, like Albuterol, used to relax the bronchial tubes and relieve the spasm in the airways when a child is having an asthma attack.
Others medications are preventative, such as inhaled corticosteroids — including Flovent, QVAR, Pulmicort and others, which are designed to be used every day.
Corticosteroids can also be used in the acute stages of asthma, and can modify the severity of an attack if used early enough, said Dr. Andrew Colin, a pediatric pulmonologist who is the Batchelor professor of cystic fibrosis and pediatric pulmonology at the University of Miami and is the director of the program of pediatric pulmonology at UM/Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami.
“We have modified the face of asthma from a disease that was landing children in the emergency room and hospital in the hundreds with no appropriate response, to one that is entirely treatable outside the hospital,” Colin said.
“The appropriate preventative approach, and keeping track of the child over time with the appropriate modification of the medication, can make asthma a very tolerable disease,” he said. “They don’t miss school. They sleep at night and can participate in games and participate at sports.”
Diagnosis and treatment are key, and can prevent the child from becoming an inactive adult, Colin said.
“It is the very mild asthmatic that is the risky kid because it will impact the way they perceive themselves, that they not able to run,” he said. “And they will not participate in sports, and will not become athletes, and will change their lifestyle from one that is normal and active to one that is sedentary — and they will watch TV all day and become obese.”
Doctors say that for a child with asthma, ongoing follow-up with a physician is crucial.
“Asthma is a condition that can have a lot of ups and downs and it’s very important for it to be evaluated periodically,” Martinez said. “It’s not the type of treatment that you treat once and it goes away. You have to monitor it regularly, and that is the best way to optimize control.”
Today, it is only an exceptional asthmatic that cannot be effectively treated, Colin said.
“Many times by doing the right medications, the right education, the access to healthcare and compliance with medication, they can have a very normal life,” Franco said. “That is the goal — to have a very normal life.”