Asthma and Allergies
Bronchodilators to Treat Asthma
These drugs treat asthma by relaxing the muscle bands that tighten around the airways. They rapidly open the airways, letting more air in and out of the lungs and improving breathing.
Bronchodilators also help clear mucus from the lungs. As the airways open, the mucus moves more freely and can be coughed out more easily. In the short-acting form, bronchodilators relieve or stop asthma symptoms and are very helpful during an asthma attack. The three main types of bronchodilators are beta2 agonists, anticholinergics, and theophylline.
Note: Short-acting bronchodilators should not be used to control asthma, because excessive use over the long term can lead to decreased efficacy.
Anti-inflammatories and Asthma
These asthma drugs, which include inhaled corticosteroids such as Asmanex, Arnuity Ellipta, Pulmicort, Azmacort, Flovent, Alvesco, and Qvar, reduce swelling and mucus production in the airways. As a result, airways are less sensitive and less likely to react to triggers. Anti-inflammatories are taken daily for several weeks before they begin to control asthma. These asthma drugs also lead to fewer symptoms, better airflow, less sensitive airways, less airway damage, and fewer asthma episodes. If taken every day, they can control or prevent asthma symptoms.
Another type of anti-inflammatory asthma drug is cromolyn sodium. This medication is a mast cell stabilizer, which means that it helps prevent the release of asthma-inducing chemicals from cells in the body known as mast cells. Intal is a drug commonly used in children and for exercise-induced asthma.
Leukotriene Modifiers for Asthma Treatment
Leukotriene modifiers used for asthma treatment include the drugs Accolate, Singulair, and Zyflo. Leukotrienes are chemicals that occur naturally in our bodies and cause tightening of airway muscles and production of mucus and fluid. Leukotriene modifiers work by limiting these reactions, improving airflow and reducing asthma symptoms. They are taken as pills (or as oral granules that can be mixed with food) one or two times a day and decrease the need for other asthma medications. The most common side effects are headache and nausea. Leukotriene modifiers may interact with other drugs, like Coumadin and theophylline. Inform your doctor about any medications you are taking.
Monoclonal Antibodies and Asthma
The drug Xolair is an antibody that blocks immunoglobulin E (IgE). This prevents an allergen from triggering an asthma attack. Xolair is given as an injection. In order to receive this therapy a person has to have an elevated IgE level and have known allergies. The allergies need to be confirmed by either blood or skin test.
How Are Asthma Drugs Taken?
Many asthma drugs are taken using a device called a "metered dose inhaler," a small aerosol canister in a plastic container that releases a burst of medication when pressed down from the top.
Several asthma drugs can also be taken as a powder inhaled through the mouth from a device called a dry powder inhaler. Asthma drugs can also be taken as vapors, pills, liquids, and shots.