Chronic childhood asthma is a global public health challenge. According to World Health Organization estimates, it is the most commonly diagnosed chronic disease among children, with 235 million people currently suffering from the disease.
Asthma is often under-diagnosed and under-treated, which can create a substantial burden for children and families in terms of both cost and the need to limit sports and other physically demanding activities.
Standard asthma treatment usually takes a two-pronged approach: The “rescue” treatment which includes inhaled short-acting bronchodilators to relieve immediate symptoms such as shortness of breath, and the “maintenance” treatment, which includes the use of inhaled corticosteroids and leukotriene antagonist medications to help keep symptoms under long term control.
A new study published in the July issue of the Paediatric Respiratory Review suggests that magnesium should be added to the roster of conventional therapies for acute asthma in children. Acute asthma occurs when symptoms cannot be controlled with the treatments mentioned above and the patient must seek emergency treatment.
Until now, doctors have been uncertain as to whether magnesium is really an effective agent in relieving acute asthma symptoms. However, the authors of the study, Stephen Jacobe and Mon Ohn, now believe that there is accumulating evidence that either inhaled or intravenous magnesium is both safe and beneficial to children presenting with acute severe asthma. Further study is needed to determine the optimum dose and mode of administration.
These results are not all that surprising. A previous study from 2010 had concluded that adults who received oral magnesium supplements over a six month period showed marked improvement in asthma control and quality of life. This is in addition to a double-blind study from 2007 which demonstrated that children who received oral magnesium supplementation experienced improved bronchial health, fewer skin allergies and better symptom control when paired with inhaled fluticasone, a standard asthma medication.
Every child deserves to live a healthy and active life. We are pleased to hear that magnesium supplements are being integrated into standard asthma treatment for children and we look forward to further scientific research in this area.