NANCY OSTROM, MD: All children get colds. They will all have cough with their colds or bronchitis. But if those symptoms last longer than a few days, are associated with coughing or tightness in the middle of the night, wheezing, tugging for breath. Those may all be indicative of asthma rather than just a routine bronchitis, and should be evaluated.
ANNOUNCER: When that evaluation leads to a diagnosis of asthma, doctors usually prescribe "reliever" medicines, to provide quick help if breathing becomes difficult.
But for persistent asthma, doctors usually also prescribe "controller" medicines. To improve day-to-day quality of life, and to help protect long-term health.
JAMES KEMP, MD: We do believe that recognizing asthma early and starting good preventative, or sometimes we call it controller therapies earlier may prevent the lung from losing some of its function.
ANNOUNCER: In children one to five, who have attacks at least twice a week, National Institutes of Health treatment guidelines call for daily or inhaled corticosteroids.
NANCY OSTROM, MD: The inhaled corticosteroid class of medications are now indicated by our national guidelines as the front line, first choice medications to help control the inflammation of any persistent asthma.
ANNOUNCER: In children over one, who have difficulty using inhaler pumps, a medication called budesonide can be given with a device called a "nebulizer," a simple machine that turns the medicine into a mist.
JAMES KEMP, MD: That type of therapy can be given to very, very young children, either as a mouthpiece where they can breathe in and out over a period of time, or as a face mask, where the mask, of course, is placed on the face snugly, and they are then just breathing in and out as, you know, they're watching something or playing.
ANNOUNCER: Doctors don't know why cases of asthma appear to be on the rise. But they say they can help the increasing number of children with breathing difficulties, even very young ones, lead normal lives.