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Asthma in Teens and Adults - Treatment Overview

Get help for special concerns

Special considerations in treating asthma include:

  • Treating other health problems. If you also have other health problems, such as inflammation and infection of the sinuses (sinusitis) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you will need treatment for those conditions.
  • Managing asthma during pregnancy. If a woman had asthma before becoming pregnant, her symptoms may become better or worse during pregnancy. Pregnant women whose asthma is not well controlled may be at risk for a number of complications.
  • Managing exercise-induced asthma. Exercise often causes asthma symptoms. Steps you can take to reduce the risk of this include using medicine 10 to 30 minutes before you exercise.
  • Managing asthma before surgery. People who have moderate to severe asthma are at higher risk of having problems during and after surgery than people who don't have asthma.
  • Managing asthma in older adults. Older adults tend to have worse asthma symptoms and a higher risk of death from asthma than younger people. They may also have one or more other health conditions or be taking other medicines that can make asthma symptoms worse.

Know what to do if asthma gets worse

If your asthma isn't improving, make an appointment with your doctor to:

  • Review your asthma diary to see if you have a new or previously unidentified trigger, such as animal dander. Talk to your doctor about how best to avoid triggers.
  • Review your medicines to be sure you are using the right ones and are using them correctly.
  • Review your asthma action plan to be sure it is still suitable for your condition.
  • See if you have a condition with symptoms similar to asthma, such as sinusitis.
  • Make sure you are using your inhaler correctly.

If your medicine isn't controlling airway inflammation, your doctor will first check to see if you are using the inhaler correctly. If you are using it the right way, your doctor may increase the dosage or switch to another medicine. Or he or she may add a medicine to your treatment.

For severe asthma that cannot be controlled with medicines, a newer treatment called bronchial thermoplasty may be used. For this treatment, heat is applied to the airways. This reduces the thickness of the airways and improves the ability to breathe.12, 13

Plan for emergencies

If you have a severe asthma attack (the red zone of your asthma action plan), use medicine based on your action plan and talk with a doctor right away about what to do next. This is especially important if your peak expiratory flow (PEF) doesn't return to the green zone or if it stays in the yellow zone after you take medicine.

You may have to go to the hospital or an emergency room for treatment. Be sure to tell the emergency staff if you are pregnant.

At the hospital, you will probably receive inhaled beta2-agonists and corticosteroids. You may be given oxygen therapy. Your lung function and condition will be checked. You may need more treatment in the emergency room or a stay in the hospital.

Some people are at increased risk of death from asthma, such as people who have been admitted to an intensive care unit for asthma or who have needed a breathing tube (intubation) for asthma. If you are high-risk, seek medical care early when you have symptoms.


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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