In 2000, asthma attacks resulted in more than 700,000 ER visits and more than 200,000 hospitalizations in patients under age 18. ER and hospitalization rates were highest among children 4 years of age and younger, despite improvements in currently available asthma treatments.

In a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting, researchers found that children with asthma who were given an inhaled corticosteroid through a device called a nebulizer experienced a 43 percent reduction in risk of returning to the ER or being admitted to a hospital. The nebulizer converts asthma medication into a breathable mist. When inhaled correctly, the nebulized medication has a better chance to effectively reach the small airways of the lung and therefore increase the medicine's effectiveness.

"Parents of children experiencing asthma attacks often rush their children to the emergency room as much as four or five times a year," said Dr. Carlos Camargo, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and principal investigator in the study. "These parents should speak to their regular pediatrician, family physician or asthma specialist about the medication that is right for their child, such as a nebulized inhaled corticosteroid."

The study showed that treatment with a nebulized inhaled corticosteroid after an asthma exacerbation is associated with a reduction in the need to seek ER or hospital treatment.

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