Drug therapy for asthma is based on two types of medications: quick-relief medications that rapidly open the airways (bronchodilators), and long-term (maintenance) medications that seek to control inflammation, reduce the number and severity of asthma attacks, and prevent airway remodeling.
Quick-Relief Medications (Bronchodilators)
Quick-relief medications, also called bronchodilators or rescue drugs, help to rapidly widen and relax your airways to relieve symptoms in mild and moderate asthma attacks. They can also be used before you exercise to help prevent exercise-induced asthma attacks. READ MORE
Long-Term (Maintenance) Medication
Long-term, or maintenance, drugs for asthma work by controlling inflammation in your airways. They are used to prevent attacks or make them less frequent and less severe. They are not used to treat attacks: that is the job of your quick-relief medication. Maintenance medication is taken even when you feel well and have no symptoms of asthma. READ MORE
Knowing the Difference
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from asthma don’t understand the difference between quick-relief medications and maintenance medications. Quick-relief medications treat only the symptoms of asthma. They don’t help to reduce the underlying inflammation that causes the disease. For long-term control, and to prevent worsening of the disease and airway remodeling, maintenance medication is necessary.
How Asthma Drugs Are Taken
Most asthma drugs are taken using handheld inhalers. There are two types of inhalers: metered-dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers.
- Metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) are the standard devices used to deliver asthma medications. They useful because they can deliver precise doses directly into the lungs. However, they may still contain propellant after the medication is finished. Unless the person has been keeping careful track of the number of doses they’ve taken, they may continue to use the MDI after the medication has been used up. Another problem with MDIs is that they are not very easy to use. You need to have training to understand how to use them properly. Many people hold them too close to, or even inside of, their mouths. A spacer (a short tube attached to the mouthpiece) can help with this.