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Asthma in Teens and Adults - Medications

Medicine doesn't cure asthma. But it is an important part of managing it. Medicines for asthma treatment are used to:

Asthma medicines are divided into two groups: those for prevention and long-term control of inflammation and those that provide quick relief for asthma attacks.

  • Long-term (controller) medicines are used daily for persistent asthma.
  • Quick-relief medicines are used as needed and provide rapid relief of symptoms during asthma attacks.

How to take asthma medicine

Most medicines for asthma are inhaled. Inhaled medicines are used because a specific dose can be given directly to the airways camera.gif.

Delivery systems include metered-dose and dry powder inhalers and nebulizers. A metered-dose inhaler (MDI) is used most often.

Doctors recommend using a spacer camera.gif with an MDI to better deliver the medicine to the lungs. For many people, a spacer makes an MDI easier to use.

actionset.gif Asthma: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler
actionset.gif Asthma: Using a Dry Powder Inhaler

Medicine choices

The most important asthma medicines are:

There are other long-term medicines for daily treatment. They include:

Other medicines may be given in some cases.

A quick-relief medicine, racepinephrine (Asthmanefrin), is available without a prescription. This medicine isn't used with an inhaler. It comes with an atomizer that delivers the medicine as a mist.

The right medicine for you

Medicine treatment for asthma depends on your age and type of asthma, and how well the treatment is controlling your asthma symptoms.

  • The least amount of medicine that controls the asthma symptoms is used.
  • The amount of medicine and number of medicines are increased in steps. So if asthma isn't controlled at a low dose of one controller medicine, the dose may be increased. Or another medicine may be added.
  • If the asthma has been under control for several months at a certain dose of medicine, the dose may be reduced. This can help find the least amount of medicine that will control the asthma.
  • Quick-relief medicine is used to treat asthma attacks. But if you need to use quick-relief medicine a lot, the amount and number of controller medicines may be changed.

Your doctor will work with you to help find the number and dose of medicines that work best.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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