Whether your child is an infant or a teenager, an inhaler can be a vital part of the program for keeping his or her asthma under control. There are two main types of asthma medications: the first type is used regularly to prevent attacks by delivering anti-inflammatory drugs (it’s known as a controller); the other, called a bronchodilator, is used to open airways when an attack is underway (it’s known as a reliever). Both of these types of medication can be delivered using an MDI (Metered Dose Inhaler), often called a puffer, which has an advantage in that medication is delivered directly into the lungs.
The style of inhaler your child uses depends on his or her age. Your child’s doctor will explain how to operate it, but here are a few basic tips for different age groups:
Infants and Toddlers
Up to age 3, children generally use what’s known as a nebulizer. This requires a machine that breaks liquid medication into very small particles so that they can be inhaled.
The nebulizer can be used with a mouthpiece or with a mask (for small children a mask is preferable). The nebulizer gives continuous medication (more than one type of medication can be mixed together) and works best in children less than 3 years old and for older children who are having an acute asthmatic attack and cannot use an MDI.
Medication for use in a nebulizer comes in two forms. In one method, the exact dose of medication to be added to the “cup” of the nebulizer is available in unit dose vials.
In the other, large bottles of medication generally come with a calibrated dropper so that you can place the correct amount of liquid in the nebulizer.
Your doctor will tell you the correct amount of medication to use and the number of times a day your child should use each medication. (He or she will also give you information about how to use the nebulizer if your child has an asthma attack.)
Start by adding the correct medication(s) to the nebulizer cup. Connect the tubing to the machine and then turn it on. Place the mask over