Asthma is treated with different types of medicines. The medicines can be given in the form of inhalers, liquids, tablets or capsules. Medicines are prescribed on the basis of frequency (how often you have symptoms) and the severity of symptoms.
Long-Term Controller Medicines
One group of medicines is used for long-term control of asthma symptoms. People with frequent asthma symptoms take these 1 or 2 times each day.
- Corticosteroids: They are medicines that decrease inflammation. They may be prescribed in either inhaled, oral, or intravenous form. Inhaling the steroids has some important advantages over other routes of administration such as the oral route. Inhalation helps decrease the dose required, delivers the corticosteroid directly to the airways, and helps reduce the risk of adverse effects associated with steroid medicines. A long-acting bronchodilator may be added for patients receiving corticosteroids who continue to have asthma symptoms.
- Other medications that help reduce inflammatory changes include leukotriene modifiers, such as montelukastand zafirlukast. These are long-term asthma control medicines and need to be taken regularly. They are not for treatment of an acute asthma attack. Cromolyn and nedocromil are also long-term anti-inflammatory medications.
This group of medicines stop symptoms quickly – in 5 to 15 minutes. Almost everyone with asthma has a quick-relief inhaler that they carry with them. People use these medicines whenever they have asthma symptoms. Most people need these medicines 1 or 2 times a week – or less often. But when asthma symptoms get worse, more doses might be needed. Some people can feel shaky after taking these medicines. A few people also need a machine called a “nebulizer” to breathe in their medicine.
- Bronchodilators: They are medications that relax the airways. These are usually inhaled using an inhaler or a nebulizer. These medicines can be used to treat acute asthma and are also helpful in the long-term management of asthma.
- Short-acting beta agonists (called “SABAs”) are quick-relief medicines. SABAs can help stop an asthma attack. Some examples of SABAs are salbutamol and levosalbutamol. Theophylline is an oral bronchodilator that may also be used in the long-term treatment of asthma.
It is very important to take all the medicines in exactly the same manner told by the doctor. Not taking medicines correctly can cause symptoms to get worse.