Skip to content

    Asthma Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Asthma: The Rescue Inhaler -- Now a Cornerstone of Asthma Treatment

    Rescue Inhalers: Don't Overdue It

    While it may be tempting for a person with asthma to use a rescue inhaler as a crutch -- taking two or more puffs several times a day to curb symptoms and manage the disease -- rescue inhalers provide only temporary relief.

    Research has shown that for many, asthma is a chronic, damaging, inflammatory condition that needs to be treated with chronic, anti-inflammatory inhaled treatment.

    "The big clue that we've learned over the years is that if you have to use a rescue inhaler often -- waking up more than two nights a month or having to use it more than two times a week -- you ought to be on something that gives you more protection," says Honsinger. "These drugs just help you for the moment -- they don't keep the increased mucus away or the scarring of the lung away. For that you need something that gives you better protection and longer action that decreases the inflammation of the lung, like an inhaled corticosteroid or a leukotriene inhibitor."

    Longer-acting asthma medications prevent symptoms before they occur by reducing airway inflammation. With asthma under control, there's a reduced dependency on the rescue inhaler. And when the one-two punch of long-term therapy and rescue inhalers fails, it's time to see a doctor.

    "With a rescue inhaler, the key word is rescue," says Christopher Randolph, MD, a clinical professor at Yale University and a physician at the Center for Allergy and Immunology in Waterbury, Conn. "If you're on long-term therapy like inhaled coritcosteroids, and you still have to use your rescue inhaler more than several times in a period of an hour or two, especially overnight, you need to consult a physician and probably go on oral steroids for a short period of time."

    It is also important to note that rescue inhalers can carry side effects, including nervousness, increased heart rate, restlessness, and insomnia

    The Evolution of the Rescue Inhaler

    Treating asthma symptoms with beta-agonist bronchodilators has been a standard part of asthma care since the 1980s -- providing new hope for people who, up until that time, had few ways to manage their symptoms.

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

    Start Now

    Today on WebMD

    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    5 common triggers.
    group jogging in park
    Should you avoid fitness activities?
     
    asthma inhaler
    Learn about your options.
    man feeling faint
    What’s the difference?
     
    Madison Wisconsin Capitol
    Slideshow
    woman wearing cpap mask
    Article
     
    red wine pouring into glass
    Slideshow
    Woman holding inhaler
    Quiz
     
    Man outdoors coughing
    Article
    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    Article
     
    10 Worst Asthma Cities
    Slideshow
    runner
    Article