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Asthma FAQs (cont.)

What Are Medications for Asthma?

There are two types of asthma medications.

  • Controller medications are for long-term control of persistent asthma. They help reduce the inflammation in the lungs that is behind asthma attacks. Controller medications should be taken every day whether someone is having symptoms or not. Controller medications include inhaled corticosteroids (the main type of medication), leukotriene inhibitors, methylxanthines, and cromolyn sodium.
  • Rescue medications are taken after an asthma attack has begun. They stop the attack. Rescue medications include beta-agonists and anticholinergics, as well as systemic (pills or injectable) corticosteroids.

Knowing which medication is which is very important because a controller medication will not give immediate relief if someone is having an asthma attack.

Controller medications should not be stopped just because a person feels fine and has not had an asthma attack for a while. Feeling fine usually means that the controller is working to keep airways free from inflammation. Also, if a controller medication is stopped and a person starts experiencing asthma symptoms again, those symptoms are harder to control. If the controller medication seems to have stopped symptoms, a person can talk to his or her doctor about changing the dose or medication.

Talking with a doctor about possible side effects is important.

For some people, allergy shots can help control asthma symptoms.

For more complete information on medications, visit Understanding Asthma Medications.

For both controller and rescue inhaler medications to be effective, they need to be properly administered so that the medication can reach the deeper parts of the lungs where they are needed. It is important to receive teaching from a health-care provider in the correct use of handheld inhaler devices.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/6/2014

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