The treatment of children with asthma has historically relied upon expert opinion using data extrapolated from adult studies. Over the past few years, landmark studies have been completed providing healthcare professionals with evidence on which a reasonable approach can be made for children suffering from this common and serious disease. Asthmatic phenotype in children, unlike adults, tends to differ according to age, which must be taken into account as well as triggers, severity, and level of control. The care of the child with asthma is complex, but accumulating data have demonstrated that we are on the right path for optimizing control while reducing the burden of side effects.
The newest Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) guidelines, as well as recent updates from the landmark CAMP (Childhood Asthma Management Program) study and information from the PACT (Pediatric Asthma Control Trial) and budesonide/formoterol controller and reliever studies, along with recent comparisons of higher dose inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), and ICS/long-acting β2-adrenoceptor agonist (LABA) combination and leukotriene receptor antagonist (LTRA) therapies in children have clarified a few of the big questions in pediatric asthma. For children with asthma aged 5 years and older, the CAMP trial demonstrated that regular use of ICS reduces the frequency of symptoms; however, height was adversely affected and there is no evidence for altering the natural history of asthma. In patients aged 6 years and over whose asthma is uncontrolled on ICS alone, combination therapy with ICS and a LABA has been recently compared with the use of higher dose ICS and the addition of an LTRA in pediatric patients. The addition of a LABA statistically will be of most benefit; however, some children will have optimal control with doubling the baseline dose of ICS or addition of an LTRA. Use of budesonide/formoterol as a controller and reliever therapy extends the time to first exacerbation versus contemporary use of this medication in patients aged 4 years and older. Ciclesonide, a newer ICS, has demonstrated acceptable efficacy but has the added benefit of not affecting growth. Certainly, with mounting evidence, the care-map in pediatric asthma control is becoming clearer.