The many therapeutic options for asthma can confuse both physicians and patients. Great emphasis has been placed on maintenance medication, particularly inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), which are the most effective medication for patients with persistent symptoms. However, asthma in young children is most commonly intermittent, triggered almost exclusively by viral respiratory infections (VRI). It is, nevertheless, associated with the highest rate of hospitalization of any age. Conventional doses of ICS do not prevent exacerbations of VRI-induced asthma. In contrast, intervention with oral corticosteroids during exacerbations has been shown to prevent the progression that would otherwise require urgent care or hospitalization. An oral corticosteroid kept on hand by the patient permits initiation of more prompt and effective treatment than is likely to occur when a patient must first go to a physician's office or emergency department, because it can be given as soon as the response to bronchodilator therapy is incomplete. Monitoring by phone and regularly scheduled physician visits to review the clinical course and reinforce education can then replace urgent medical care, thereby improving the quality and efficacy of asthma management.