Common Medications for Children with Asthma

The type of medication your child uses for asthma will depend on their age, the severity of their symptoms and how they respond to inhaled medications.

Some asthma medicine is taken with an inhaler or “puffer,” or as a pill, liquid or injection. Asthma medicine can be used for occasional symptoms and also long-term treatment.

Controller Medications (long-term):

These are the most common types of medication:

Anti-inflammatory medications – These controlling medications help to decrease inflammation in the airways. These include:

  • Corticosteroids (kor-ti-ko-STARE-oydz) - These can be inhaled or taken as pills, liquid, or even as an injection. (These are not the controversial steroids sometimes taken by professional athletes.)

Long-acting Bronchodilators (bron-ko-DYE-lay-torz) – These help open the narrowed lungs and may relieve coughing, wheezing, or difficulty in breathing. However these medications like salmeterol (Serevent) or fomoterol (Foradil) only begin working after several minutes and therefore are not recommended for quick relief or as a rescue medication. They should not be used without use of a daily inhaled steroid. 

Anti-leukotrienes (anti-loo-ko-TRY-eenz) – This is a relatively new class of medication for asthma and also act as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These are usually taken as pills or chewable tablets.

Rescue Medications (short-term):

Short-acting Bronchodilators – These are usually considered quick relief or rescue medications for sudden attacks of asthma. Types of bronchodilators are beta-agonists such as albuterol or anticholinergics such as Atrovent. These medications come in inhalers (puffers), liquid of inhalation, pills, or by injections.