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Asthma in Teens and Adults - Treatment Overview

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.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 14, 2014
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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