Like many medications, asthma medications can sometimes have unpleasant side effects. Learn tips on how to manage side effects from your child’s asthma medications.

What are the Most Common Side Effects of Asthma Medications?

When used as directed with the care team’s guidance, your child’s asthma medications are safe and can be lifesaving.<?p>

Common side effects can include:


  • Fast heart rate, jitteriness or shakiness. These side effects are harmless. They usually pass in a few hours.

Inhaled steroids

  • Thrush (white coating on the back of the tongue). To lessen the chance of developing thrush, use a spacer with an inhaled steroid. Have your child rinse their mouth or brush their teeth after taking this medication.

Why Does Asthma Need Treatment?

When asthma is not treated, the lungs do not receive enough oxygen. This means the rest of the body (including the heart, brain and other organs) also do not get enough oxygen. This can affect children in many ways, including poor growth, slower development and learning difficulties in school.

Who Can Help Treat My Child's Asthma?

The care teams in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology and/or Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at Mass General for Children (MGfC) can help treat your child’s asthma. Be sure to share any worries about your child’s asthma or treatment with the care team.

About Asthma

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a lung disease that makes the airways in the lungs swell. This causes coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing. Asthma often starts in childhood. Some children outgrow asthma while others have it for life. While there is no cure, asthma can be managed successfully.

How is Asthma Treated?

For children with mild symptoms, a rescue inhaler (such as albuterol) is usually enough.

For children with more severe symptoms, treatment can include a rescue inhaler plus inhaled steroids. These include fluticasone (Flovent®), budesonide (Pulimcort®) or beclomethasone (Qvar®).

Treatment depends on your child’s symptoms and the following factors:

  • Rescue inhaler use
  • Symptoms of coughing, wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Waking up at night due to coughing, trouble breathing or other asthma symptoms
  • How much asthma interferes with daily

A Note About Asthma Action Plans...

If your child is diagnosed with asthma, the care team will give you an asthma action plan. This tells you which medications to give your child every day, which ones to give when your child is having a hard time breathing and what to do in case of an emergency.

Rev. 11/2017. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any brands mentioned in this handout. This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.