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Asthma Treatment Tools

Asthma Basics


Updated May 07, 2008

A school age child getting a nebulizer treatment.

A school age child getting a nebulizer treatment.

Photo © 2007 Vincent Iannelli, MD

Kids with a new diagnosis of asthma, especially if they have new asthma symptoms and were diagnosed in the emergency room, are sometimes given only an inhaler as their asthma treatment.

To effectively treat your child's asthma and prevent asthma attacks, you will likely need some other asthma treatment tools, which can include:

  • an asthma action plan
  • a peak flow meter
  • a spacer, either with or without a mask
  • a nebulizer

An asthma action plan, which lists all of your child's medicines and when he should take them, can be especially helpful to keep your child's asthma under good control.

Peak Flow Meters

Using a peak flow meter, a small, portable device that your child blows in as hard as he can, you can get a measurement of his lung function.

Peak flow meters come in a variety of sizes and shapes. There are even digital peak flow meters available now that can store and print your child's peak flow readings over time, such as the Microlife Digital Peak Flow Meter (Compare Prices).

Examples of more simple, inexpensive peak flow meter include the:

Although you don't need a prescription for a peak flow meter, you should see your pediatrician to learn how to use it, help you understand how to figure out what your child's peak flow should be, and to get an asthma action plan.

Also, except for teenagers who may have a higher predicted and personal best peak flow, you should likely get a "low range" model peak flow meter for your child. Unlike a "full range" peak flow meter that gives readings over 850 L/min, a "low range" peak flow meter usually only goes up to about 390 L/min.


A spacer can help make it easier for your child to use a metered dose inhaler (MDI). Without a spacer, your child has to breath in almost at the exact time that he activates the MDI, which can be difficult, especially for children under age five.

The spacer attaches to the MDI, and can hold the medication until your child breathes in, so the timing isn't as critical. This helps more of the medicine get to your child's lungs, instead of simply in his mouth.

Commonly used spacers include the:

Spacer with Mask

In addition to using a spacer, children under age four years old should usually use a spacer with a mask. These attach to a metered dose inhaler, but instead of your child simply breathing in through the mouth piece of the spacer, a mask is attached to that goes over your child's nose and mouth.

Commonly used spacers with a mask include the:


A nebulizer, which is more commonly known as a "breathing machine" by parents, includes an air compressor to deliver an aerosolized breathing treatment to your child with asthma.

They are especially helpful for younger children who are not able to use an inhaler or don't cooperate when using an inhaler with a spacer and mask. And many parents prefer using a nebulizer over their child's inhaler when they are having a severe asthma attack.

Commonly used nebulizers include the:

  • Omron NE-C28 CompAir Compressor Nebulizer (Compare Prices)
  • Stratos Compact Aerosol Compressor (Compare Prices)
  • Mabis MiniComp Compressor Nebulizer Kit (Compare Prices)
  • PARI Trek S Portable Compressor Nebulizer (Compare Prices) - a little more expensive than most other nebulizers, but it is faster, quieter, and smaller than other nebulizers too.
  • DeVilbiss Pulmo-Aide Compact Compressor Nebulizer (Compare Prices)
  • Pari Proneb Ultra II Plus Compressor Nebulizer System (Compare Prices)

Keep in mind that you may need to buy a separate mask for some nebulizers, which are often necessary if your child is under five years old:


Mason: Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 4th ed.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. 2007.

Pediatric asthma. Stewart LJ - Prim Care - 01-MAR-2008; 35(1): 25-40, vi.

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