The way you treat your asthma depends on the severity of
your symptoms and how often you have them. Asthma medications use anti-inflammatories
to reduce the swelling in your airways and bronchodilators to relax the muscles
that can tighten those airways further.
Here’s an overview of the types of medications people with
Mild or intermittent asthma: typically, you would
take a short-acting bronchodilator. These are often referred to as “rescue”
medications. They take effect within five minutes and last for about two to four
Moderate to severe: usually, you would take,
every day, a long-acting bronchodilator and an anti-inflammatory (often an
inhaled corticosteroid). Additionally, you would have a quick-relief medication
to take if necessary for flare-ups. Long-acting bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories
do not provide quick relief. Sometimes, your doctor will prescribe one
inhaler that allows you to take your long-acting bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories
in one dose.
► Check expiration dates on your medications
Be sure to keep your asthma medications up to date. Check
expiration dates on a regular basis. If you’re planning a trip, check in advance
to make sure your drugs are current.
What about over-the-counter medications?
The two most common asthma drugs you can buy without a
prescription are Bronkaid and Primatene Mist. They provide relief for about 30
minutes. It’s not at all helpful to your asthma to use these medications to
control frequent symptoms. If you are using these drugs often, it’s time to see
a doctor to determine whether you would benefit from prescription medications
that can get your symptoms under control and prevent long-term damage to your
What about shots for asthma treatment?
There’s a possibility that if your asthma symptoms are
triggered by allergens such as mold, pollen or others, you could benefit from
allergy shots. This is also called immunotherapy. Your doctor can help you
determine whether allergy shots would be a good idea for you.
What about alternative treatments?
The alternative therapies that may help reduce asthma
symptoms are geared toward promoting a sense of relaxation and calm. These
You may want to try these in addition to your routine
medication, NOT as a replacement.
Journal of the American Medical Association, June 2005.