Medicines plays a key role in how well you control your condition. There are two main types of treatment, each geared toward a specific goal.
Controller medications are the most important because they prevent asthma attacks. When you use these drugs, your airways are less inflamed and less likely to react to triggers.
Quick-relief medications — also called rescue medications — relax the muscles around your airway. If you have to use a rescue medication more than twice a week, your asthma isn’t well-controlled. But people who have exercise-induced asthma may use a quick-acting med called a beta-agonist before a workout.
The right medication should allow you to live an active and normal life. If your asthma symptoms aren’t controlled, ask your doctor to help you find a different treatment that works better.
These drugs are taken daily over a long time to get your asthma under control and keep it that way.
The most effective ones stop airway inflammation. Your doctor may suggest you combine an anti-inflammatory drug with other drugs such as:
Long-acting beta-agonists. A beta-agonist is a type of drug called a bronchodilator, which opens your airways.
Leukotriene modifiers block chemicals that cause inflammation.
Mast cell stabilizers curb the release of chemicals that cause inflammation.
Theophylline is a bronchodilator used to prevent nighttime symptoms.
An immunomodulator is an injection given if you have moderate to severe asthma related to allergies that doesn’t respond to inhaled certain drugs.
These medications provide fast relief of asthma attack symptoms like cough, chest tightness, and wheezing. They include:
Short-acting beta-agonists (bronchodilators)
Anticholinergics. These are bronchodilators that can be paired with, or used instead of, short-acting beta-agonists.
Systemic corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that get symptoms under control quickly.
There are a few ways to take asthma medications. Some are inhaled, using a metered dose inhaler, dry powder inhaler, or a nebulizer (which changes medication from a liquid to a mist). Others are taken by mouth, either in pill or liquid form. They can also be given by injection.
These aren’t long-term treatments and shouldn’t be relied upon daily to control your asthma. If you take an over-the-counter asthma drug and have frequent symptoms, talk to your doctor. Also let him know if you sometimes use OTC drugs along with your prescription. You don’t want to take more medicine than you need.
Children who get allergy shots are less likely to get asthma, recent studies show. Since allergies are an asthma trigger, it makes sense that if you control them, you’ll have fewer asthma attacks.
Asthma can’t be cured. How often you need to take your medications depends on how severe your condition is and how frequently you have symptoms. For example, if you only have trouble when you exercise, you may only need to use an inhaler before a workout. But most people with asthma need daily treatment.
Asthma Medication Guidelines
Your medications are the foundation of good asthma control. Learn all you can about them. Know what treatments are included in your asthma action plan, when these drugs should be taken, their expected results, and what to do when you don’t get the results you want .
Never run out of asthma medication. Call your pharmacy or doctor’s office at least 48 hours before you run out. Store your pharmacy phone number, prescription numbers, and drug names and doses in the notes app on your phone so you can easily call for refills.
Make sure you understand and can follow your asthma treatment plan.
Wash your hands before you take asthma drugs.
Take your time. Double-check the name and dosage of all medications before you use them.
Store asthma drugs according to their instructions.
Check liquid medications often. If they have changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and get new ones.
Tell your doctor about any other medications you take. Some drugs don’t work well when you take them together. Most asthma medications are safe, but some do cause side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to describe them and report anything unusual or severe.