Treatment of an infant with wheezing depends on the underlying etiology. Response to bronchodilators is unpredictable, regardless of cause, but suggests a component of bronchial hyperreactivity. It is appropriate to administer albuterol aerosol and objectively observe the response. For infants <3 yr of age, it is acceptable to continue to administer inhaled medications through an MDI with mask and spacer if a therapeutic benefit is demonstrated. Therapy should be continued in all patients with asthma exacerbations from a viral illness.
The use of ipratropium bromide in this population is controversial, but it appears to be somewhat effective as an adjunct therapy. It is also useful in infants with significant tracheal and bronchial malacia who may be made worse by ?-2 agonists such as albuterol because of the subsequent decrease in smooth muscle tone.
A trial of inhaled steroids may be warranted in a patient who has responded to multiple courses of oral steroids, has moderate to severe wheezing, or a significant history of atopy including food allergy or eczema. Inhaled steroids are appropriate for maintenance therapy in patients with known reactive airways but are controversial when used for episodic or acute illnesses.
Oral steroids are generally reserved for atopic wheezing infants thought to have asthma that is refractory to other medications. Their use in first-time wheezing infants or those infants that do not warrant hospitalization is controversial.
Infants with acute bronchiolitis who are experiencing respiratory distress should be Continue reading »