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How to choose delivery devices for asthma
  1. University of Leicester, and Leicester Royal Infirmary Children's Hospital, Leicester LE2 7LX, UK

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    The inhalation route has many advantages in the treatment of diseases of the respiratory tract. Medication may be delivered directly to its site of action, giving a faster onset and allowing smaller doses of drug to be administered. Systemic absorption of the drug is diminished, reducing systemic side effects. The drug treatment regimen for the vast majority of patients with asthma is straightforward and is documented in recent guidelines.1The choice of which drug delivery device to use is less clear. Rather than being spoilt for choice, we are more frequently confused by the ever increasing number of devices available. What guidance may be given to the paediatrician selecting an inhalation drug delivery device for a patient? The choice depends on the device, the patient, and the drug. Our current practice is outlined in table1.

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    Table 1

    Age specific recommendations for drug delivery devices

    Spacer devices, used with facemasks for children unable to breathe reliably through a mouthpiece, are the first choice of device for children younger than 5 years. Nebulised delivery of bronchodilator and prophylactic medications is inefficient and expensive, and nebulisers should be reserved for those unable or unwilling to use metered dose inhalers and spacers. The use of metered dose inhalers alone, breath actuated devices, and dry powder inhalers should be discouraged in this age group. It is important to read studies pertaining to this age group with care, as conclusions of a device's suitability may be generated across a wide age range, despite inclusion of a small number of subjects younger than 5 years chosen for their ability to undertake advanced respiratory manoeuvres.

    For children older than 5 years, bronchodilators may be given via a breath actuated metered dose inhaler or a dry powder inhaler. We recommend a spacer device for the administration of inhaled …

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