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Allergies Health Center

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Asthma and Allergies

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What Is the Treatment for Asthma?

By avoiding asthma triggers, taking medication, and carefully monitoring daily asthma symptoms, asthma attacks can be avoided or at least limited. Proper use of medication is the basis of good asthma control. Drugs used to treat asthma include bronchodilators, anti-inflammatories, and leukotriene modifiers.

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.

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