Though children with low to moderate asthma are typically
treated with the same medication, few children have the same
responses to it.
That's the finding of new research, funded by the National
Institutes of Health, that studied children age 6-18 with asthma.
The research found that 98 percent of children responded
differently to three of the most typically used treatments.
The findings provide essential information for doctors trying to
select the best option for young patients, says the paper's lead
author, Dr. Robert F. Lemanske from the University of Wisconsin
Hospital-Madison. Previously, he says, most of the research on
asthma medications for kids has been conducted by pharmaceutical
companies that compared one drug with a placebo.
Usually, children with moderate asthma are given an inhaled
corticosteroid first. If it doesn't work, doctors then follow NIH
guidelines to either double the corticosteroid dose or add either a
long-acting beta-agonist or a leukotriene receptor antagonist.
If one of those additions doesn't work, Lemanske says, doctors
sometimes rate a child's asthma as more severe and prescribe more
steroids. But the study found that the child may simply need to try
another of the three NIH-recommended options.
"It's not a one-size-fits-all," he says. "What makes it
challenging for clinicians is that what works for Johnny may not
work for Mary. That's why follow-up care is so important as
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
asthma affects 7 million children and is a major cause of school
absenteeism. Lemanske says boys under 10 are twice as likely as
girls to develop asthma, but girls catch up by adolescence. Finding
out why will be the goal of future studies, he says.
Lisa Applegate is a freelance writer and mom of one living in Chicago.
See more of Lisa's stories here.
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