Quick-Relief Asthma Drugs
These medications provide fast relief of asthma attack symptoms like cough, chest tightness, and wheezing. They include:
Short-acting beta-agonists (bronchodilators)
Anticholinergics. These are bronchodilators that can be paired with, or used instead of, short-acting beta-agonists.
Systemic corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that get symptoms under control.
Inhalers, Nebulizers, and Pills as Asthma Medicine
There are a few ways to take asthma medications. Some are inhaled, using a metered dose inhaler, dry powder inhaler, or a nebulizer (which changes medication from a liquid to a mist). Others are taken by mouth, either in pill or liquid form. They can also be given by injection.
Some asthma drugs can be taken together. And some inhalers mix two different medications to get the drugs to your airways quicker.
Are There Over-the-Counter Asthma Drugs?
Over-the-counter medications for asthma are generally discouraged. You should talk to a doctor about your asthma symptoms and follow his treatment guidelines. OTC medications are not long-term treatments and shouldn’t be relied upon daily to control your asthma. People with high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, or heart disease should avoid them.
Can Allergy Shots Treat My Asthma?
Children who get allergy shots are less likely to get asthma, recent studies show, but there are asthma shots specifically for adolescents and adults. Since allergies are an asthma trigger, it makes sense that if you control them, you’ll have fewer asthma attacks.
Ask your doctor if allergy shots might work for you.
How Often Will I Have to Take Asthma Drugs?
Asthma can't be cured. How often you need to take your medications depends on how severe your condition is and how frequently you have symptoms. For example, if you only have trouble when you exercise, you may only need to use an inhaler before a workout. But most people with asthma need daily treatment.
Asthma Medication Guidelines
Your medications are the foundation of good asthma control. Learn all you can about them. Know what treatments are included in your asthma action plan, when these drugs should be taken, their expected results, and what to do when you don’t get the results you want.
Keep these general guidelines in mind, too.
- Never run out of asthma medication. Call your pharmacy or doctor's office at least 48 hours before you run out. Store your pharmacy phone number, prescription numbers, and drug names and doses in the notes app on your phone so you can easily call for refills.
- Take your time. Double-check the name and dosage of all medications before you use them.
- Store asthma drugs according to their instructions.
- Check liquid medications often. If they have changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and get new ones.
- Tell your doctor about any other medications you take. Some drugs don’t work well when you take them together. Most asthma medications are safe, but some do cause side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to describe them and report anything unusual or severe.