Treating adult asthma is a team effort between you and your doctor. Treatment usually goes in steps: You start with one kind of medicine and then change or add medications if you need to. Once your asthma is under control for 3 months, your doctor might remove a medication or prescribe one that isn't as strong.
No matter what causes your asthma, your doctor will probably suggest two kinds of medicine. One is a rescue inhaler. It's for quick relief when an attack comes. You breathe through the mouthpiece of a small puffer to help open the airways in your lungs when your chest feels tight. The other kind is to help control your asthma day to day and prevent attacks. It could be a pill or something you inhale.
In addition, your doctor will want to fine-tune your plan, depending on what type of asthma you have. Different types can have different triggers, so your doctor will coach you on ways to avoid your triggers and prevent attacks.
Allergic asthma: The idea here is to stay away from the things you’re allergic to, like:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
Sometimes it’s impossible to stay away from these things completely (like pollen in the spring), so your doctor might suggest:
- Antihistamines (prescription or over-the-counter)
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Other nasal sprays
- Allergy shots
- Things to use in your home, like special filters in your vacuum cleaner
Aspirin-sensitive asthma: Aspirin and other medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, can cause asthma attacks.
Your doctor may prescribe medication for aspirin-sensitive asthma, but the best way to control it is to avoid the drugs that cause it. When you buy any over-the-counter medication, be sure to read the label because aspirin or other NSAIDs can be in cold medications and other drugs.
Eosinophilic asthma: People with this have higher-than-normal amounts of white blood cells called eosinophils in their blood, lung tissue, and sputum (mucus you cough up). Eosinophilic asthma is usually severe. Your doctor may prescribe a medication called a biologic to help get rid of some of the eosinophils in your body.
Exercise-induced asthma: Exercise -- or the place where you do it -- can cause asthma attacks. To avoid them, you can:
- Avoid cold air, pollution, and pollen.
- Warm up and cool down.
- Choose sports that have frequent stops in the action, such as baseball or football.
- If you have trouble breathing, stop exercising and use your rescue inhaler right away.
While swimming can be great because the air is usually warm and moist, chlorine fumes can be a trigger for some, so pay attention if you like to hit the water.
Nighttime asthma: Your doctor may call this nocturnal asthma. He may want you to take your medications at a certain time before bed so you're protected while you sleep. You may also need to do what you can to avoid or treat some conditions that can cause asthma symptoms, like:
- Postnasal drip
- Sinus infection (sinusitis)
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
Occupational asthma. If you work with animals, chemicals (including detergents), metals, paint, or plants, your job could cause asthma. In addition to your meds, you may need to wear a mask or respirator so you don't breathe in the fumes or particles that trigger your asthma.