Management of severe asthma in children.

Posted on: Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 @ 2:18 AM - By: Mohemet - Seen 3453 Times

Management of Paediatric Acute Asthma (Asthma Exacerbation):

Introduction: asthma is a chronic disease of childhood which is intermittent, reversible obstructive airway disease, characterized by 3Rs: Recurrent, Reversible and Responsive. Clinically it manifests as recurrent episodes of wheezing, dyspnoea, chest tightness, and cough.


Is it first attack or already diagnosed? ask about treatment if any; triggering factors; family history of asthma, atopy, or allergic disease; Consider other causes of wheeze e.g. bronchiolitis, aspiration, foreign body, anaphylaxis.


*Degree of respiratory distress

  • Respiratory rate – compare to age-appropriate normal ranges
  •  Use of accessory muscles and recession
  • Posture or position

*Oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry

* Ability to talk in phrases, sentences or words

*Any clinical signs of major atelectasis or pneumothorax (decreased air entry or silent chest)

*Mental state (alertness and responsiveness)

*Heart rate

Generally no investigations are required in assessing acute asthma.
Chest x-ray consider in patients presenting with first episode of wheeze, particularly if doubt about
diagnosis. Children with known asthma do not require a CXR unless there is a suspicion of pneumothorax
or major collapse/consolidation.
• Blood tests (including blood gases) – not routinely required.

Per clinical examination, asthma severity will be divided into mild, moderate, severe and critical (life threatening). See below table for more illustration:

Here in this topic, we are going to discuss how to deal and handle a child with severe and critical (life threatening) asthma only.

Management: it’s better to admit the patient to PICU:

  • Oxygen to keep saturation ≥ 93% (10-15L/min especially in critical asthma)
  • Inhaled SABA: Albuterol (also known as salbutamol -ventolin-) by nebuliser – 3 doses 20 minutely
    <6 years – 2.5mg nebulised over 10-15 minutes
    ≥6 years – 5mg nebulised over 10-15 minutes
    Review ongoing requirements every 10-20 minutes after 3rd dose. If improving, reduce frequency, if no change, continue 20 minutely.
  • IV Albuterol: In deteriorating or in case of critical asthma use IV Albuterol instead of nebulised. Bolus:5microgram/kg/min for first hour then consider infusion.
    Infusion:1-2 microgram/kg/min
  • Ipratropium bromide: (250microgram) via nebuliser 3 times in 1st hour (20 minutely, added to Salbutamol)
    Wean at same rate as Salbutamol and cease once on 1-2hrly
  • Oral prednisolone. Give 2mg/kg/day (maximum dose 60mg) for initial dose and 1mg/kg
    for subsequent doses. Use multiples of 5mg for ease of administration.
    If vomiting or cannot take oral medications give>>
  • IV hydrocortisone 10-20mg/kg 6 hourly (maximum 2oomg)
  • Aminophylline infusion: Loading dose of 5mg/kg (maximum 500mg) over at least 60 minutes inside normal saline followed by an infusion of:
    <12 years – 1 mg/kg/hour
    12 years to adult – 0.5 to 0.7 mg/kg/hour.
  • Magnesium sulphate: 25-50mg/kg over 20-30 minutes.
  • Adrenaline amp: 0.01mg/kg IM or SC if poor air entry all over the chest or silent chest.
  • Intubation and mechanical ventilation: for extreme cases with impending respiratory failure.
When to discharge the patient? patient can safely be discharged when there is:

  • sustained improvement of symptoms
  • normal physical finding
  • oxygen saturation more than 92% for more than 4 hours on room air
  • PEFR > 70%

Filed under: Acute cases / Featured / Respiratory