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Medications Used To Treat Asthma

What Controller Medications Can Be Used


The following controller medications can be used:

  • Corticosteroids : Inhaled steroids are the most commonly used controller medications. They can reduce the chronic inflammation, preventing the narrowing of the airways and shortness of breath. If the isn’t well controlled despite inhaling steroids, the dose can be increased. It’s also possible to combine different medications.
  • Beta2-agonists: If steroids aren’t enough, a beta2-agonist can be used too. This opens up the airways. But beta2-agonists have to be used together with a steroid drug because they can make the symptoms worse when taken on their own, and may even cause severe attacks. The beta2-agonist and corticosteroid can either be inhaled separately or together. There are inhalers that allow you to inhale both medications at the same time. This is known as a fixed combination.
  • Leukotriene antagonists: These medications block the action of chemical messengers that play a role in the inflammatory response in the airways. They aren’t as effective as steroids. Combination treatment with a leukotriene antagonist and a steroid drug is less effective at preventing attacks than combination treatment with a beta2-agonist and a steroid drug.

For each type of medication, there are a number of different drugs that can be used. It is currently thought that the different drugs within each group of medications work just as well as each other.

Will Medicine Help Me Sleep Better

Yes, if you have nighttime asthma symptoms. Many people wake up with asthma symptoms such as coughing or wheezing. You can control nighttime symptoms by taking asthma medicines as directed by your doctor.

Removing triggers where you sleep may help you sleep better. Many people are allergic to dust mites and mold found in bedding materials. Using mattress or pillow encasements can help contain those allergens. Dehumidifiers can also be helpful to reduce the humidity in your home that dust mites and mold need to exist. Using air cleaners in your bedroom may also help reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants .

How Do Asthma Relievers Work

Relievers are fast-acting asthma medications. They provide quick relief from the symptoms of asthma wheeze, chest tightness, cough and shortness of breath.

Also called bronchodilators, relievers relax the airway muscles and open the airways, making it easier to breathe. They work within minutes, with the effects lasting for up to 4 hours.

Anyone with asthma should always carry a reliever. Relievers usually come in a blue or grey inhaler device. A well-known reliever is Ventolin .

Relievers can have side effects such as a fast heartbeat , shaking hands and feelings of anxiety or nervousness.

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Can Medicine Alone Help My Asthma

Not usually. Although medicines help a lot, they may not be able to do the job alone. You have to avoid the things that cause or trigger your asthma symptoms as much as you can. Asthma triggers can be found outside or inside your home, school, or workplace.

Improving the indoor air quality in your home is an important part of asthma control. Your indoor air can be more polluted than outside air. Our interactive Healthy Home can show you ways to improve the indoor air quality of your home. A healthier home can reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants.

Will Medicine Help Me Breathe Better When I Exercise

Asthma Medications and Devices: Asthma Triggers

Yes. Exercising, particularly in cold air, may cause airway swelling or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction . Quick-relief asthma medicines, taken before exercise, usually control this. If you need repeated doses of quick-relief medicine during and after exercise talk with your doctor. Your medicines may need to be adjusted. Thanks to these medicines, many Olympic and professional athletes have successful sports careers even with their asthma.

It is important for everyone, including people with asthma, to be as active as possible for good health. Talk with your doctor about how you can be physically active while keeping your asthma well-controlled.

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What Are The Different Types Of Asthma Medicines And Treatments

There are four types of asthma medicines and treatments:

  • Quick-relief medicines These medicines work quickly to relieve sudden symptoms. You take them as needed and at the first sign of symptoms.
  • Controller medicines These medicines help control asthma by correcting the underlying changes in the airways, such as swelling and excess mucus. They can be one or a combination of medicines.
  • Combination of quick-relief and controller medicines These medicines are used for both short-term relief and control.
  • Biologics This type of treatment targets a cell or protein to prevent swelling inside the airways. They are for people with certain types of persistent asthma and are given by injection or infusion.
  • The difference between these asthma treatments can be confusing. It is important to understand what each treatment does and how they help your asthma. Learning how to use each correctly can you help keep your asthma well-controlled. Always take your medicines as directed by your doctor and follow your Asthma Action Plan.

    What Is The Treatment Of Asthma Which Medications Are Commonly Used To Treat Asthma

    The main goals in asthma treatment are to prevent asthma attacks and to control the disease. Avoiding triggers that induce or aggravate asthma attacks is an important aspect of prevention. Medications used to prevent asthma attacks focus on decreasing the airway inflammation that causes attacks. Rescue medications help open up your airway and are used for quick relief when asthma symptoms occur despite the use of controller medications.

    Most of the inhaler therapies have been changed recently because of the government mandate to remove chlorofluorocarbons from the devices in an attempt to prevent further damage to the earth’s ozone layer. These inhalers have changed to a new propellant, hydrofluoroalkane , or powder devices. This change in delivery system resulted inadvertently in removing all generic inhalers from the market and only proprietary options were available until recently. The FDA approved levalbuterol as a generic for the rescue inhaler known as Xopenex. Additionally, this medication is also available as a generic in nebulized form along with the inhaled steroid budesonide .

    Beclomethasone , budesonide , flunisolide , fluticasone , mometasone , and triamcinolone are used as first-line asthma medicines. A small amount of inhaled corticosteroids is swallowed with each dose, but it’s much less than that contained in oral corticosteroids. Therefore, inhaled corticosteroids decrease the likelihood of adverse effects from long-term use of steroids.


    Side effects

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    What Are The Possible Side Effects

    The side effects depend on the type of medication, how large a dose you take and how you take it. You will find detailed information about this in the package insert that comes with the medication.

    Inhaling medication usually causes fewer side effects than swallowing it in the form of tablets. In mild asthma, the side effects of some medications sometimes outweigh their potential benefits. If that is the case, it might be better not to take them. In moderate to severe asthma, though, the consequences of the condition are considerably worse than the long-term side effects of the medication.

    Figure : Stepwise Approach To Asthma Management For Adults And Children 12 Years And Up1

    Asthma & COPD Treatment / Pharmacology (Inhaler Progression)

    ICS=inhaled corticosteroids, LABA=long-acting beta agonists, LAMA=Long-acting muscarinic antagonists, LTRA=Leukotriene receptor antagonists, SABA=short-acting beta agonistsAdditional Figure 1 notes

    • Every step: Reduce exposure to triggers, exercise, eat healthy, and manage stress
    • Steps 2, 3, and 4: Consider immunotherapy for allergies
    • Steps 5 and 6: Consider adding asthma biologics

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    What Is The Main Cause Of Asthma

    Asthma is caused by chronic inflammation of these airways. Individuals with asthma are highly sensitive to various “triggers” that lead to inflammation of the airways. When the inflammation is triggered by one or more of these factors, the air passages swell and fill with mucus. The muscles within the breathing passages contract and narrow . The narrow airways make it hard to exhale .

    Rescue Inhalers For Asthma Attacks

    Rescue medicines do just what the name says: Work quickly enough to rescue you during an asthma attack. These drugs should be used for short periods of time for symptoms of asthma such as wheezing and cough. You may also hear these drugs called SABAs, which stands for short-acting beta-agonist.

    Rescue inhalers work by relaxing the airway muscles. Used early, this can help keep an asthma attack from getting worse. These drugs begin to work in minutes, and the effects last for 4 to 6 hours. Examples of rescue inhalers include:1,2

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    How To Use A Nebulizer Without Medication

    Water in a nebulizer for cough, stuffy nose, lung congestion, and bronchitis is many times recommended to use, especially for people who do not want to use medications for respiratory problems.

    For operating your nebulizer without medicines you need to add salt water solution or saline water into the medicine cup.

    Inhalation of sodium chloride solution actually helps in breaking down the deposited mucus and phlegm in the lungs which are then expelled out as cough easily.

    Is Saline for Baby Asthma Cough Safe?

    As the saline solution is just a sterile salt water solution and not an actual asthma medication, using it to nebulize the baby is completely safe and free of side effects.

    However saline nebulizer for infants should be given after consulting with the pediatrician who can advice the best saline nebuliser dose that can be given for your baby safely without showing any side effects.

    Care that if there are signs of acute wheezing and severe asthma seen, nebulizing just with hypertonic saline may not prove much effective.

    In this case, you may need to use asthma medications for getting a faster cure.

    Where Can I Buy Saline Solution For Nebulizer?

    Saline for nebulizer is easily available over the counter at online shopping sites like Amazon.

    Care that you buy sterile saline from these stores and not use the homemade saline solution in the nebulizer machine as this can be risky.

    Using Your Asthma Action Plan

    Asthma Management: Long

    It is important to treat an asthma attack as soon as you can. You can often do this yourself by taking the rescue medicine your doctor prescribed. This is usually an inhaler.1

    If you think your asthma attack was caused by something like exercise, cold air, or an irritant, stop what you are doing and go somewhere safe.1

    Use your controller and rescue medicine exactly as your doctor prescribed. Then, follow your asthma action plan to decide what to do next. It may include instructions to use your peak flow meter. If your peak flow is below 50 percent, call 91-1- right away. If you have any questions or if your symptoms do not improve, call your doctor immediately.1

    If you are at high risk of a severe or fatal asthma attack, find medical help immediately after using your rescue medication.1

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    Types Of Asthma Medicines

    The following medicines are commonly used to treat asthma. It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s advice about your treatment.

    Bronchodilators relax the muscles around the airways . When the airways are more open, it is easier to breathe. There are two general types of bronchodilators, and you may be prescribed one or both types:

    • Short-Acting bronchodilators work quickly after you take them so that you feel relief from symptoms quickly.
    • Long-Acting bronchodilators have effects that last a long time. They should not be used for quick relief. These medications are only recommended for use when combined with an anti-inflammatory asthma medicine .

    Anti-inflammatory medicines reduce the swelling and mucus production inside the airways. When that inflammation is reduced, it is easier to breathe. These medicines also are called corticosteroids or steroids. Most often, these are inhaled medications and it is important to rinse out your mouth with water immediately after using them to avoid getting thrush, a yeast infection in your throat.

    Some corticosteroids come in pill form and usually are used for short periods of time in special circumstances, such as when your symptoms are getting worse.

    There are a few medicines that combine inhaled bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids.

    How Do Asthma Preventers Work

    Preventers help to control asthma symptoms and prevent attacks. They reduce the inflammation in the airways, making them less sensitive.

    Many adults with asthma take a preventer usually as an inhaler which delivers a low dose of corticosteroid to the lungs.

    Corticosteroid preventers are usually prescribed for an adult who:

    • has had asthma symptoms twice or more in the last month
    • is sometimes woken up by asthma symptoms
    • has had a flare-up requiring an urgent visit to a GP or emergency department in the last 12 months

    Combination medications are preventers that also contain a second medication, a ‘long-acting bronchodilator’, as well as the corticosteroid. The long-acting bronchodilator helps to relax the tightened airway muscles, allowing the airways to open and more air to reach the lungs.

    Preventers take several days or even weeks to work . To work properly, preventers need to be used every day, even when you have no symptoms.

    Preventers can have side effects such as sore throat, hoarse voice and oral thrush.

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    Wise Approach To Treating Asthma

    The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program recommends a stepped approach to asthma treatment based on age and asthma severity. Where you begin on the steps depends on how intense your asthma is at first. If your doctor follows other guidelines, your treatment may be different.

    If 1 drug is not enough to control your asthma in 2 to 6 weeks, your treatment goes up 1 step. This may mean increasing the dose or adding another drug. If your asthma is well controlled for at least 3 months, you may go down 1 step. Going down a step means your doctor will try a lower dose or cutting out a drug to see if your asthma stays under control.1

    In general, the types of asthma control medicines prescribed for the 6 steps of asthma severity include:1

    • Inhaled steroids
    • Asthma biologics

    The recommendations for when these drugs are prescribed change based on a persons age and asthma severity.

    How Do Asthma Treatments Work

    Inhalers (Asthma Treatment & COPD Treatment) Explained!

    Asthma treatments work in these ways:

  • They relax the muscles that tighten around the airways. They relieve the squeeze. They can be short- or long-acting. By opening the airways, they help remove and reduce mucus. These medicines are bronchodilators or beta agonists.
  • They reduce the swelling and mucus inside the airways. These medicines are anti-inflammatories .
  • Bronchodilators

    Bronchodilators can be short- or long-acting. If you use short-acting bronchodilators more than two days a week, talk with your doctor about your asthma control. You may need to make changes to your treatment plan to better control your asthma.


    Anti-inflammatories come in many different forms. They are also called controllers because they help to control or prevent asthma symptoms. They reduce swelling and extra mucus inside the airways. They will not relieve sudden symptoms.

    Other Types of Medicines and Treatments

    Single Maintenance and Reliever Therapy

    The 2020 Focused Updates to the Asthma Management Guidelines recommends single maintenance and reliever therapy, also known as SMART. SMART uses one inhaler that has two medicines as a quick-relief and controller medicine. When on SMART, you can either take your medicine only as needed to relieve sudden symptoms, or you can take it daily as a controller and as needed for quick relief. This is based on your age and the severity of your asthma.

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    Medications Used To Treat Asthma

    The goal of any asthma treatment regimen is to control asthma. Good asthma control means that symptoms are rare and mild and easy to reverse when they do occur. It also means that you are able to maintain your normal activity level between asthma episodes. You should be able to do most of the things you enjoy doing.1

    There are three categories of asthma medicine.

    What Are Leukotriene Inhibitors For Asthma

    Montelukast , zafirlukast , and zileuton are used to control asthma symptoms. They are often used in addition to inhaled corticosteroids to avoid the use of oral corticosteroid.

    How leukotrienes work

    Leukotrienes are powerful chemical substances produced by the body. They promote the inflammatory response caused by exposure to allergens. Leukotriene inhibitors block the action or production of these chemicals, thereby reducing inflammation.

    Who should not use these medications

    • Individuals who are allergic to leukotriene inhibitors should not take these drugs.
    • Individuals with phenylketonuria should not take the chewable tablets that contain aspartame because this artificial sweetener contains phenylalanine


    • Leukotrienes are available with a prescription as tablets, chewable tablets, and oral granules.
    • Granules may be taken directly in the mouth, or they may be mixed in soft foods like pudding or applesauce.
    • The drug is administered as a once-daily dose.

    Drug or food interactions

    No drug or food interactions have been reported.

    Side effects

    Leukotrienes are typically well tolerated, and side effects are similar to those of patients taking a placebo . Reports of headache, earache, sore throat, and respiratory infections have been noted.

    Inhaled anticholinergic medications, such as ipratropium , enhance beta-agonists’ effectiveness.

    Side effects

    Combination therapy

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    How Do I Use And Look After My Nebuliser

    When youre prescribed a nebuliser to use at home you should be given clear instructions on how to use and look after it by your doctor, specialist or pharmacist.

    Using your nebuliser

    Always follow your doctor or specialists guidance on how to use your nebuliser and read the guidance notes carefully.

    • Wash your hands before using your nebuliser
    • If youre using a mouthpiece, seal your lips around it and breathe through your mouth, not your nose
    • If youre using a facemask, place it over your mouth and nose
    • Take normal, calm breaths as much as you can.

    Looking after your nebuliser

    Read the guidance notes carefully when you first get your nebuliser, so you know:

    • The best way to keep your nebuliser clean to lower risk of infection
    • How often to change the filters, and where to get them
    • How often the nebuliser needs servicing, and how to arrange that. If you are loaned a nebuliser, the hospital or specialist clinic is responsible for servicing it.

    Ask your doctor or specialist if youre not sure about anything. You can also contact the nebuliser company or manufacturers for advice if you need help with the device itself.

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