There are 3 types of asthma according to the latest guidelines from the National Asthma Council. Which type your child has determines how he or she is treated and whether a 'preventer' is required.
Preventers are medications taken every day, even when well, to keep asthma under control. Many children who need a preventer are not using one.
Most children have 'infrequent episodic asthma', with flare-ups mostly triggered by a head cold or allergy. Episodes are usually more than 6-8 weeks apart and these children have no symptoms between attacks. They only need to take 'reliever' medication for quick relief when symptoms occur.
Some children have 'frequent episodic asthma', with more frequent attacks and minor symptoms between episodes. These children may benefit from a daily preventer medication, especially in winter.
A few children have 'persistent asthma', with regular symptoms between attacks. A preventer is always required.
What preventers are available?
The newest preventer is montelukast, a chewable tablet taken once daily at bedtime. It is suitable for children over 2 years. Although previously expensive, montelukast has recently been subsidised by the PBS. It is well tolerated - effects are no more common than with sugar pills.
Cromolyns are also available for prevention. These are inhaled medications taken 2-4 times daily. Side effects from these drugs are quite uncommon.
Steroid sprays are the most powerful preventive treatment and are vital for more severe cases. They are usually inhaled twice daily. However, they may cause more side effects so it is important to use the smallest effective dose.
For more details speak to your doctor or visit http://www.nationalasthma.org.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.