Researchers have advised asthma patients to continue their medication for long-term benefits even if they have fewer symptoms.
The study led by researchers in Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) has shown that although patients had fewer symptoms five years after stopping the daily medication, they are primed to an attack if they got a bad cold or during weather change.
During the study, more than 1,000 children age 5-12 were treated for mild to moderate asthma over more than four years and followed up for nearly five years after the end of the trial.
They were divided into three groups: one received twice-daily budesonide, an inhaled corticosteroid medication; one received nedocromil, an inhaled non-steroid medication; and one group received a placebo. All children received albuterol, a bronchodilator, and oral corticosteroids as needed for asthma symptoms.
They found that the children, now in their late teens, who took the medications during the trial showed no difference in their asthma control compared with the children who received the placebo.
"The interesting thing is that as kids with asthma get older, they actually do better," said Robert C. Strunk, M.D., a Washington University pediatrician at St. Louis Children's Hospital and lead author of the study.
"We used to say they were outgrowing their asthma. What we know now is that as they go from being young children to age 20, their airways get bigger. They still have asthma but don't have as much trouble from it," he added.
Although the patients had fewer symptoms five years after stopping the daily medication, Strunk said it doesn't mean that they can stop using asthma medications altogether or that their asthma is cured.
"While the kids did get better with age and didn't seem to need the medicine as much, laboratory measurements indicated that they were still having symptoms, and therefore were primed to an attack if they got a bad cold or were exposed to a significant weather change," Strunk added.
The researchers determined that continued benefit of these medications likely requires continued use.
The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.