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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why You Need to Take Asthma Medicine, Even if You Feel Fine (3)

Skipping a child’s medication now may mean stronger drugs later
It is especially important for children and teens to take medicine as directed.

“Through childhood, asthma may periodically become more severe or improve, and that does complicate things because parents may perceive that a child’s asthma is ‘cured,’” says Dr. Moss. “They could continue for months or potentially even years like this only to have the asthma worsen as they get older.”

Often a remission occurs during adolescence, but there is no cure for asthma, and the condition will likely reappear in adulthood, only more chronic, explains Dr. Moss.

Sometimes medications can be stopped or the dose lowered, but a doctor needs to make that decision, Dr. Moss says.

Unexpected triggers such as a cold, allergy, chemical irritant, or air pollution can quickly bring the asthma from the back burner to the front burner, Dr. Horovitz says.

“Not taking maintenance medications makes patients vulnerable,” he says.

Parents can be scared off by the fact that maintenance drugs have a steroid component, thinking it will affect their child’s development, Watts says. But since patients are inhaling the steroids—rather than swallowing them in a liquid—it’s much less likely. While corticosteroids can stunt growth slightly, it’s unlikely with inhaled steroids. But if your child’s asthma is so bad that he or she is at risk for hospitalization, doctors may have no choice but to put him or her on the much stronger oral corticosteroids—at least temporarily—to get the asthma under control. (You can read more about asthma drug safety here.)

Patients should also remember to rinse their mouth after taking inhaled corticosteroids, so as to avoid developing thrush, a yeast infection of the throat, Watts warns.

“Whether you have a child with asthma or have it as an adult, you shouldn’t skip your maintenance medications. You should always take them as prescribed every day and, if you notice more symptoms or a difference in breathing, then you should definitely call a physician so that he or she can adjust your medication,” Watts says.

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