Understanding Asthma Controllers for Children

Mom using an asthma controller for her daughter while walking in the park

One in every thirteen Americans has asthma. So, there’s a good chance that you, your child, or someone you know has it. In many cases, people with moderate or severe asthma rely on Controllers daily. 

Long-term controllers help manage asthma symptoms and make life much easier, especially for children. However, even when it’s clear that a controller is necessary, it’s not always easy to decide what controller medications are best for your child. 

In this article, we discuss:

  • The difference between controllers and relievers 
  • Understanding differences between controllers for kids 
  • How to schedule an appointment with a Pediatric Pulmonology Specialist

Continue reading to learn more. 

The Difference Between Controllers & Relievers

If your child was recently diagnosed with asthma, it could be a bit overwhelming to learn everything about the best treatments, therapies, etc. 

One of the first things to know is that children with moderate, severe, or difficult-to-control asthma may require two types of medication for regular use and emergencies. 

Learn more about each below. 

  • Relievers – Also known as “rescue” medication, “relievers” quickly open airways to relieve acute bouts of asthma. They are essential medications to combat and sometimes prevent asthma attacks
  • Controllers – Also known as “preventer” medication, “controllers” help prevent most persistent asthma symptoms by decreasing inflammation in the lungs. In most cases, asthma patients use controllers every day. 

Now that you know the key differences between the two most common asthma medication classifications, you’re ready to learn more about controllers. 

Types of Asthma Controllers For Kids

According to the CDC, roughly half of all children with asthma had an attack within the last year. With that in mind, sometimes, the attack is due to the underutilization of controllers. Learn about the benefits and uses of each type of preventer medication below. 

Inhaled Corticosteroids

Inhaled corticosteroids are steroids inhaled to reduce overall inflammation and mucus in the lungs. An inhaler delivers medicine directly to the lungs. Inhaled corticosteroids should be taken daily and are not for emergency use. 

Oral and Injected Corticosteroids

Sometimes a child is not ready for an inhaler, or a physician discourages inhaler use (for patient-specific reasons). In that case, they may recommend oral or injectable corticosteroids. Generally, oral and injected doses of corticosteroids contain more medicine. 

In many cases, oral or injected corticosteroids are reserved for temporary use. That means that it provides a more robust treatment.

Long-Acting Bronchodilators 

Long-acting bronchodilator inhalers (LABAs) relax the muscle groups surrounding airways. They help to maintain open airways for 12 – 24 hours. In most cases, LABAs are used together with inhaled corticosteroids. 

Leukotriene Modifiers

Also called leukotriene antagonists, leukotriene modifiers help reduce inflammation, mucus, and bronchoconstriction in the lungs. This medication is typically not the first line of treatment for children with asthma. Your doctor can use it to treat asthma and allergies simultaneously. A child can take Leukotriene modifiers via pill, chewable, or granules. 

Mast Cell Stabilizers 

Mast cell stabilizers control inflammation resulting from asthma and exercise-induced asthma. It works by blocking (or inhibiting) the release of contents like histamine from mast cells. Mast cell stabilizers can be inhaled (mouth or nose), taken orally, or taken via eye drops. 

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Blockers 

IgE blockers are typically reserved for people with severe asthma. This treatment blocks IgE antibodies that cause asthma symptoms. Further, it reduces airway inflammation, reduces overall asthma symptoms, and decreases asthma-induced ER visits. Doctors use Ige blockers by injection. 

Anti-Interleukin (Anti-IL) Agents 

Anti-IL agents target specific interleukins (ILs) to limit disease activity related to abnormal levels of a type of white blood cell called eosinophils. Anti-IL agents treat severe and chronic asthma in children and adults. However, it is mainly reserved for people with eosinophilic asthma.


Anticholinergics are usually reserved for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, it can also be prescribed for individuals with persistent asthma. They work by relaxing the airways, preventing them from getting smaller, reducing mucus, and protecting against bronchospasms (in some cases). 

Schedule an Appointment With a Pediatric Pulmonology Specialist

If you’re deciding on the best controller medication for your child, you should consult with an experienced Pediatric Pulmonology Specialist. In many cases, your child may need a combination of treatments discussed in this article. 

Our pulmonary specialists are well-trained, compassionate, and dedicated to helping your child breathe better again. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our award-winning team of pediatric pulmonology specialists.