[Acute asthma attacks in childhood]

N Regamey, C Casaulta Aebischer, U Frey
Therapeutische Umschau. Revue Thérapeutique 2005, 62 (8): 539-42
The diagnosis of an acute asthmatic attack in a child is made on a clinical basis. The severity of the exacerbation can be assessed by physical examination and measurement of the transcutaneous oxygenation saturation. A blood gas analysis can be helpful in this assessment. A child with a severe asthma exacerbation should be promptly referred to an emergency department of a hospital. Oxygen should be given to keep the oxygen saturation above 92% and short-acting, selective beta-2 agonists should be administered. Beta-2 agonists can be delivered by intermittent nebulization, continuous nebulization or by metered dose inhaler (MDI) with a spacer They can also be given intravenously in patients who are unresponsive to escalating therapy. The early administration of systemic corticosteroids is essential for the management of acute asthma in children. When tolerated, systemic corticoseroids can be given orally but inhaled corticosteroids are not recommended. Oxygen delivery, beta-2 agonists and steroid therapy are the mainstay of emergency treatment. Hypovolemia should be corrected either intravenously or orally. Administration of multiple doses of ipratropium bromide has been shown to decrease the hospitalization rate in children and adolescents with severe asthma. Clinical response to initial treatment is the main criterion for hospital admission. Patients with failure to respond to treatment should be transferred to an intensive care unit. A critical aspect of management of the acute asthma attack in a child is the prevention of similar attacks in the future.

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