Health Symposium

Asthma Care

If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it is important to become aware of all the treatment options for both immediate and long term treatment. Though popular media often makes light of asthma, it is in fact a very serious condition that can have fatal consequences if uncontrolled, particularly in children.


Understanding asthma treatments allows the patient to work together with the doctor to keep the symptoms under control on a day to day basis. Treatment for asthma varies from bronchodilator inhalers to oral medicines to nebulizers. The particular treatment that is indicated for a person with asthma will vary depending on the disease’s severity and other factors. It is also critical for patients to learn to control their symptoms and to eliminate triggers that can lead to asthma attacks. Controlling asthma is a daily process. When an attack does occur, or even when symptoms just worsen, it is important to contact the patient’s medical caregiver so that an emergency can be forestalled.

Medication for asthma saves people’s lives. It even lets people live active lives in many cases. Medicines for asthma fall into two basic categories. First are steroids and other drugs that provide an anti-inflammatory effect. These are typically inhaled, and work to prevent asthma symptoms by reducing swelling of the airways and limiting the production of mucus by the membranes of the airways. This basically reduces the sensitivity of the airways to asthma attacks. Bronchodilators, the other type of medicine, relaxes airways, opening the passages for air to travel to the lungs.

These are also given in the form of inhalers. Typically, bronchodilators are referred to as rescue inhalers, because they are fast acting and can be used in emergencies. They relieve tightness of the chest, coughing, wheezing, and general shortness of breath. They may also be used prophylactically to prevent symptoms during exercise. These are not a daily treatment for asthma. Frequent use of these types of inhalers indicate poorly controlled asthma. Long-acting bronchodilators are sometimes combined with steroids in inhalers.

Though inhalers are the most common and easiest way to deliver the medications to the airways, there are a number of other options. Nebulizers are common, especially for children, babies, and the elderly, as they involve strapping a mask to the face and not a coordinated action such as inhalers. Called breathing machines, they essentially change liquid asthma medicines into an airborne mist that is then inhaled through the mask. This is a longer process, spanning a number of minutes rather than a few seconds.