Now that school is out, it may be a little bit easier to get the kids out of bed in the morning. The final days of school spent battling spring fever while taking exams have been replaced by swimming, playing ball and just running around the backyard in search of adventure.
But for as many as 7 million American children affected by asthma, this burst of exercise could trigger breathing problems, especially when combined with pollens, dust and mold.
Fortunately, you can manage your child’s asthma with the right tactics and medications. In our previous post, we discussed long-term medications. Now we’ll cover the use of short-term medications. Just remember: it’s important to work closely with your child’s physician to monitor symptoms and adjust asthma medications as needed.
“Even if your child takes long-term control medications to manage their asthma, they may also need short-term medications,” said Tracy Rife, RN, BSN, AE-C, the Asthma and Easy Breathing Program Coordinator at the Akron Children’s Hospital Robert T. Stone, MD, Respiratory Center. “Sometimes called rescue medications or quick-relief medications, these drugs open the airways in the lungs by relaxing the muscle bands around each airway. For children whose asthma is very minimal, short-term medications may be all that’s needed.”
The reason these drugs are called rescue medications is because they begin working within minutes to relieve symptoms or to stop an asthma attack from worsening. This is why they are so important during asthma emergencies. Rescue medicine is typically effective for four to six hours. Some people also use a quick-relief inhaler before exercising. When used before physical activity, it will hopefully prevent exercise symptoms.
The most common rescue medication is Albuterol. This drug is made by three different companies, and each brand of albuterol has a different color inhaler. The three different brands of albuterol are:
- ProAir® (red inhaler)
- Ventolin® (gray/blue inhaler)
- Proventil® (yellow inhaler)
Some physicians also prescribe Xopenex as a rescue medicine.
Your insurance may often determine which brand of Albuterol you receive. Consequently, the color of your child’s rescue inhaler may change when it is refilled. Always look at the canister label to check for the name Albuterol.
When symptoms are infrequent and minor – or if your child’s asthma is brought about by exercise – these medications may be enough to manage the problem. But if your child’s asthma is persistent, the doctor may prescribe an inhaled corticosteroid or other long-term control medication. Do not have your child use short-term medications daily on a regular basis. If your child needs to use a rescue inhaler more often than his or her physician recommends or more than twice a week, then the asthma is not under control — and the risk of suffering a serious asthma attack is higher.
No matter what medication your child takes to relieve asthma, it is important to track symptoms and side effects, to adjust the treatment as needed and to follow all physician instructions. Even if your child feels fine, make sure they keep taking their medications as prescribed.