Your Guide to Asthma Medications

Don't let asthma get in the way of your daily activities. There are multiple asthma treatment methods available by prescription that are worth considering.

Some of the most common approaches to managing asthma include asthma inhalers that contain fast-acting relief medication to open up your airways, inhaled steroids for long-term control of your respiratory functioning, and allergy control medications to manage your immune system response to various triggers that set off asthma symptoms.

Quick Relief Medications

To reverse the symptoms of an asthma attack you'll need a form of treatment that will work fast:

  • A fast-acting relief inhaler contains short-acting beta agonists (like albuterol) which work by relaxing your airway muscles to open up your lungs. This is also often used before exercise to head off symptoms.
  • Oral corticosteroids (like prednisone) are usually used for asthma conditions that are difficult to manage. This asthma medication comes in pill form so it can travel through your bloodstream to open up your lungs within a few hours. Just know that it's usually limited to short-term use in order to minimize possible side effects.

Long-Term Medications

For longer-term asthma relief, these options can help you feel better if you take them regularly:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids are breathed directly into the lungs (rather than traveling through the body as they do in oral form) to open up the airways without taking a toll on the rest of your body.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators (including Advair® and Symbicort®) are used in conjunction with corticosteroids to control your symptoms. (The safety of this form of treatment has been challenged in recent years, so you should talk to your doctor to address any concerns before you take this form of medication.)
  • Leukotriene modifiers (like Singulair®) are taken in pill form and work to block off a chemical that can lead to asthma symptoms.
  • Mast-cell stabilizers (like Intal) are placed in asthma inhalers. Use it several times a day to prevent your body from producing mast cells that can cause an asthma attack.

Other Asthma Treatment Options

  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE) blockers (called Xolair®) are given by injection and it works by blocking the IgE chemical, a substance that can aggravate airborne allergies. This option is appropriate for those whose symptoms don't respond to other forms of asthma treatments.
  • Immunotherapy injections expose your immune system to miniscule doses of your allergy triggers which increases over time in order to build up your tolerance and prevent you from experiencing an allergic response that can lead to asthma.

Monitor Your Asthma Treatment

Your doctor will help you determine which one of these asthma medications and treatment methods will work best for you. He'll also ask you to monitor your symptoms and your asthma medication usage on a daily basis so you'll be alert for any changes. This will enable you to adjust your doses, or even try new approaches as needed so you can breathe easy.




"AAAAI Allergy and Asthma Drug Guide." American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology., Dec. 2009. Web. 9 June 2011.

"Asthma Medications." American Lung Association., n.d. Web. 9 June 2011.

"Asthma Medications: Know your Options." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 10 June 2010. Web. 9 June 2011.

"New Medications Will Help You Breathe Easy." Your Lung Health., 2007. Web, 9 June 2011.