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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.

Can Asthma Attacks Be Prevented?

While asthma attacks may not always be able to be prevented, asthma can be managed.

  • Avoiding triggers as much as possible is the best way to prevent asthma attacks (for example, eliminating pollen, dust, and mold from a home).
  • Exposure to pets when children are very young may lower the risk of developing asthma. Children who live with two or more pets are less likely to react to allergens. If, however, an individual is already allergic to pets, it may be important to avoid exposure to that particular trigger.
  • Taking medications as directed is essential.
  • People who have outdoor allergies should avoid outside activities when the pollen count or pollution index is high.
  • For exercise-induced asthma, several things can help. Spending time warming up before starting strenuous activity and gradually cooling down afterward, avoiding activity during a respiratory tract infection, and avoiding exertion in extremely cold weather may help prevent an asthma attack.
  • Yoga may help manage asthma. Sahaja yoga is a type of meditation based on yoga principles that was found to be somewhat effective in managing moderate to severe asthma. Other forms of relaxation training, mediation, and stress reduction may also be of benefit.

For More Information

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
85 West Algonquin Road, Suite 550
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology
611 East Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

American Lung Association
61 Broadway, 6th floor
New York, NY 10006

Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America
1233 20th Street NW
Suite 402
Washington, DC 20036

Asthma Society of Canada
130 Bridgeland Avenue, Suite 425
Toronto, Ontario M6A 1Z4

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/
National Center for Environmental Health

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
6610 Rockledge Drive, MSC 6612
Bethesda, MD 20892

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
PO Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824

Medically reviewed by James E Gerace, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Pulmonary Disease


Brenner B. "Asthma." July 2, 2009 <>.

Kelly W, Argyros G. "Allergic and Environmental Asthma." June 17, 2009 <>.

Manocha R, Marks GB, Kenchington P, et al. "Sahaja yoga in the management of moderate to severe asthma: a randomized controlled trial." Thorax. 57.2 Feb. 2002: 110-5.

Morris M, Perkins P. "Asthma." Sept. 9, 2009 <>.

Sharma G. "Asthma." Sept. 9, 2009 <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017

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