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Albuterol Sulfate (Salbutamol)

Other names: Volmax Cr, Vospire Cr
The diagnosis of asthma is usually made from the appearance of a wheezy, distressed child who is short of breath. Both Simon and Julie presented in this manner and as soon as I saw them the diagnosis was obvious. Even if the symptoms are less severe the child’s description of them is usually accurate enough to confirm the diagnosis. However, on some occasions, doubts may still linger in both doctor’s and parents’ minds and certain tests may then be arranged by your GP. The test can have three functions: to confirm the diagnosis of asthma; to rule out other possible types of chest problems; and in some cases to try and determine the underlying cause of the attacks.
Blood tests
These are carried out on a small sample of blood from the child’s arm, and only need to be performed at the initial examination. The tests check there are sufficient cells present in the blood to fight infections. One particular constituent is the white blood cell, which destroys invading viruses and bacteria and forms part of the body’s natural defense system, known as the immune system. There are many millions of these present in every pint of blood. In asthmatic children there may be a marked reduction in these particular cells, leaving the children more prone to infections.
Our blood also contains certain proteins; the levels of one such protein, called IgE, are raised if the person is highly allergic. Children with asthma are therefore more likely to have high IgE levels, and these will show on the laboratory test.
Chest X-Ray
Parents often think that chest X-rays are vital in the diagnosis of asthma, but it is important to realize that in nearly all children the X-ray will be completely normal. The main reason for taking a film is to exclude other, less common causes of wheezing. One possibility is cystic fibrosis which is a rare condition in which the lungs become clogged with thick mucus. Alternatively a small object like a peanut may have been inhaled straight into the lungs. This classically happens when the nut is thrown into the air and caught in the mouth, for at this angle the peanut may pass straight down the windpipe. Chest X-rays may also be of help where an infection is present at the same time as the asthma, as the extent and severity of the affected area shows up clearly.
Lung function tests
Children can be tested for asthma by breathing into a machine which monitors how effectively the lungs are working. The simplest of these is a small calibrated plastic tube, called a peak flow meter. This measures the amount of air that a child can blow out of the lungs in one second. As the airways are narrowed in asthma, it follows that less air can be blown out through them. Thus if they are half their normal width then only half the amount of air can be expelled at each breath. This measurement is recorded by the peak flow meter, which plays a major role in the management of asthma and is discussed in much greater detail in the section on prevention. It is a useful tool in diagnosing asthma as the initial reading may be much lower than would be expected even in the absence of significant wheezing.

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