Asthma in children

Treating asthma in children

There’s no cure for asthma yet but the symptoms can usually be controlled easily.

The two most common types of asthma medication are preventers and relievers.

On this page:


How do preventers help?

Preventers help by controlling the inflammation in your child’s airways. They usually contain medication called inhaled steroids which are similar to the steroids our bodies produce to regulate inflammation.

When should my child take preventers?

Your child should take their preventer medication regularly, usually every morning and evening. It’s a good idea to build this into their daily routine. They need to take their preventer medication even when they’re not experiencing symptoms.


How do relievers help?

Relievers contain medication that relaxes the muscles around the airways making it easier for air to get into and out of the lungs.

When should my child take relievers?

Your child should take their reliever medication when they start getting asthma symptoms – wheezing, breathlessness or a tight chest. They should start to feel better straight away. They should also take reliever medication before exercise.

Taking the medication

The most common way to take asthma medication is through an inhaler. Inhalers turn the medication into a fine mist that is breathed into the lungs. This gets the medication straight to where it’s needed and helps to reduce side effects.

Most children, particularly those under 6 years old, will need to use a spacer with their inhaler.  A spacer makes the inhaler easier to use and helps to increase the amount of medicine reaching your child’s lungs.

Make sure you understand how your child should use the inhaler and spacer. Ask a doctor or nurse to show you if you’re not sure.

It’s important to clean your child’s inhaler at least once a month. Always make sure you follow the cleaning instructions that come with the inhaler.

Stepwise approach to treatment

To decide what treatment is best for your child, your doctor or nurse will use a stepwise approach. This uses different levels of treatment depending on how bad your child’s symptoms are.

There are:

Asthma UK has more information on the different steps.

Personal asthma action plan

Your doctor or nurse should give you a written personal asthma action plan for your child. This is a written summary of how to manage your child’s asthma including which medicine to take, how often, how to monitor their symptoms and when to get a review. Make sure you keep it up to date.

If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.