The Art Of Treating Asthma
As you can probably see by now, there are a lot of things to consider when deciding on asthma treatment. The first thing to understand is the difference between a symptom-reliever drug and a controller drug. Think about ear infections. You can use Tylenol to treat the symptoms, pain and fever, but it does nothing to treat the underlying problem. The same is true in asthma. You can use beta agonists like albuterol to treat the symptoms, but since asthma is an inflammatory disease, you very often must use something to control the inflammation.
Symptom-relievers vs. controller drugs
Symptom relievers can be given on an as-needed basis when symptoms such as wheezing and cough are present. They can be stopped when the symptoms go away. Controller medicines, such as the anti-inflammatory drugs, must be given on a regular basis, day in and day out, even when there are no symptoms. I see far too many parents who stop all of their child's medicines the moment the symptoms disappear, leaving the chronic ongoing inflammation free to progress without opposition. This will increase the frequency and severity of the child's asthma symptoms, and could possibly cause irreversible changes in the lungs. Consistency in using daily controller medication is essential.
The use of controller drugs is mandatory for all but the mild intermittent asthma patient. That is why proper classification and review by the physician is so important. It is also why education is so important. You, as parents, must understand why the medication must be continued, even when your child appears to be better.
Treating asthma is an art. There are many different drugs to use, and they can be administered in a number of ways: orally, by inhaler, by nebulizer, by injection, or into the vein. They can be given some of the time or all of the time. The treatment of asthma becomes an art when you and your child's doctor craft an individualized treatment plan based on the history of your child's illness, and all the considerations described in the article above. The success of this plan for your child depends on your doctor's recognition of the fact that asthma is an inflammatory disease, on your recognition of the level of your child's sickness, and on how well you and your child comply with the treatment plan. Without more educated partnerships between parent and doctor, pediatricians like me will continue to see too many patients like Roger, struggling to breathe.