Health Team

Children must learn how, when to use asthma medicines

Posted March 10, 2010 5:40 p.m. EST
Updated March 11, 2010 4:46 p.m. EST

— Antonio Watson, 13, is a key part of his local Amateur Athletic Union basketball team. He doesn't want anything to keep him off the court, especially not his asthma.

When he was diagnosed two years ago, Antonio had to learn how to take a somewhat complex regimen of drugs. He has to use nasal sprays, emergency inhalers and the medication Advair, which he takes twice a day.

Advair is a combination medicine containing the inhaled steroid flovent and bronchodilator salmeterol, both lasting 12 hours.

WakeMed asthma educator Sarah Lineberry tells patients the rescue version of bronchodilators – known as albuterol – wears off after four hours.

Antonio said he uses his rescue medicine 15 minutes before playing basketball so he can play most of the game.

The 12-hour bronchodilator in Advair can also be prescribed alone, which doctors say increases the risk of an overdose.

“People were using this long-acting (bronchodilator) as a regular albuterol, like one they could use every four hours, and that's where we had an increase in asthma deaths,” Lineberry said.

A study showed African-Americans were at a pronounced risk of hospitalization or death from too much of the albuterol.

Antonio and his mother want to make sure he understands when and in what forms he should take his medications.

“The people here are helping me, and they'll explain it to you if you have a question. They answer it for you,” Antonio said of his doctors at WakeMed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration changed the labeling of the long-acting beta agonists, or bronchodilators, to indicate that they should never be used alone in adults or children with asthma. Instead, they should be used only in combination with an inhaled cortocosteroid drug.