To examine trends in preventive asthma medication (PAM) use among children with current asthma in the United States from 1988 to 2008.


We performed a cross-sectional analysis of PAM use among 2499 children aged 1 to 19 years with current asthma using nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 3 time periods: 1988–1994, 1999–2002, and 2005–2008. PAMs included inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene receptor antagonists, long-acting β-agonists, mast-cell stabilizers, and methylxanthines.


Among children with current asthma, there was an increase in the use of PAMs from 17.8% (SE: 3.3) in 1988–1994 to 34.9% (SE: 3.3) in 2005–2008 (P < .001 for trend). Adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and health insurance status, the odds of PAM use were higher in 2005–2008 compared with 1988–1994 (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.6; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.5–4.5). A multivariate analysis, combining all 3 time periods, showed lower use of PAMs among non-Hispanic black (aOR = 0.5 [95% CI: 0.4–0.7]) and Mexican American (aOR = 0.6 [95% CI: 0.4–0.9]) children compared to non-Hispanic white children. PAM use was also lower in 12 to 19 year olds compared with 1 to 5 year olds and also in children who did not have health insurance compared with those who did.


Between 1988 and 2008, the use of PAM increased among children with current asthma. Non-Hispanic black and Mexican American children, adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, and uninsured children with current asthma had lower use of PAM.

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