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Asthma Medications

Asthma medications are placed into two groups; Quick Relief Medicines and Controller Medicines.

Quick Relief medicines sometimes referred to as short-acting beta agonists relax the constricted bronchial muscles around the airway. These medicines do exactly what they are supposed to; act fast, yet their action does not last very long-usually 4-6 hours. There are quite a few quick relief medicines available and they are generally dispensed as inhalers or liquid to be used with a nebulizer.

Controller medicines sometimes referred to as long-term control medicines work to relieve the inflammation within the airway. They are slower to act than Quick Relief medicines, but will last longer. These medicines are not to be taken if you are having an acute asthma attack. As with Quick Relief medicines there are a number of controller medicines available. The most common of these are the corticosteriods-not to be confused with the anabolic steroids that some athletes may use. The steroids used in asthma management are safe to use. They are often used in combination with other long-term control medicines such as a long-acting bronchodilator like Advair. Controller medicines can be dispensed as inhalers or dry powders for inhalation as well as tablets.

Category   Purpose   Medication Type
Long term asthma control medicines   The most important type of medicine regularly taken by people with asthma to control chronic asthma symptoms and to prevent asthma attacks  
  1. Long-acting beta agonists
  2. Inhaled corticosteroids
  3. Combination inhalers that contain both a corticosteroid and a LABA
  4. Leukotriene modifiers
  5. Theophylline
         
Quick Relief Medications   Fast acting medications taken for short term relief of asthma symptoms  
  1. Short acting beta-agonist such as abluterol
  2. Ipratropium Bromide(Atrovent)
  3. For more serious asthma attacks oral/intravenous corticosteroids
         
Medications for allergic asthma   Taken as needed to reduce the body sensitivity to a particular allergy causing substance  
  1. Xolair(Omaizumab)
  2. Allergy shots
 

Long Term Control Medcines

It is not uncommon for people with asthma to take long-term control medicines on a daily basis. these are medicines that you take even when you do not have any symptoms. There are different kinds of long-term medications. These include: inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting beta agonists, combination inhalers, leukotriene inhibitors, as well as theophylline.

Inhaled Corticosteroids:

These are anti-inflammatory medications that are the most effective and commonly used to treat asthma. These medications work to reduce the swelling within your airways. Inhaled corticosteroids most often need to be used for several days to weeks before their maximum effect is achieved. Types of inhaled corticosteroids include:

Asmanex (Monmetasone)
Ciclesonide (Alvesco)
Beclomethasone ( Qvar)
Fluticasone (Flovent)
Budesonide (Pulmicort)

When taking corticosteroids it is important to remember to rinse your mouth with water after each use. This will help minimize such side effects as throat irritation and oral yeast infections.

Long-Acting Beta Agonists:

These medications open narrow airways by relaxing bronchial muscles. They can last at least 12 hours and control moderate to severe asthma. They are also used to control nighttime asthma symptoms. Long-Acting Beta Agonists are always used in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid. Examples of Long-Acting Beta Agonists include:

Serevent (Salmeterol)
Foradil (Fomoterol)

Combination Inhalers:

Combination inhalers contain both corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonists. They work together to relieve the inflammation and muscle tightening of the airways. Examples of these medications include:

Advair (Fluticasone and Salmeterol)
Symbicort (Budesonide and Formoterol)
Dulera (Mometasone and Formoterol)

Leukotriene Inhibitors:

These medications block the effects of immune system chemicals called leukotrienes. These chemicals cause asthma symptoms. Leukotriene inhibitors help prevent these symptoms for up to 24 hours. Examples of these medicines include:

Singulair (Montelukast)
Accolate (Zafirlukast)
Zyflo (Zileuton)

Theophylline:

This medicine comes as a pill and is used to relax the bronchial muscles of the airways. It helps with nighttime asthma symptoms. Sometimes regular blood tests are needed to make sure the correct dosage is being acheived.

Quick Relief Medicines

Quick Relief Medicines sometimes referred to as short-acting beta agonists work by relaxing constricted bronchial muscles. They are often referred to as rescue medicines because they can stop an asthma attack in progress. Quick relief medications are fast acting working within minutes and last up to four to six hours. Quick relief medications can sometimes be used before exercise to prevent exercise induced asthma symptoms. Examples of quick relief medications include:

Asmanex Albuterol (Ventolin)
Xopenex (Levalbuterol)
Maxair (Pirbuterol)
Proair
Proventil

Ipratropium Bromide (Atrovent) is sometimes used as an alternative to short-acting bronchodialtors to treat asthma attacks.

Medications For Allergic Asthma

For allergic asthma allergy shots are sometimes given to control asthma that avoidance of triggers can't control. Skin testing is often done to determine which allergens are responsible for triggering your asthma symptoms. Once determined your physician will give you a series of injections over several months to eventually desensitize you to these allergens.

If you have allergies to such things as pet dander, dust mites or pollen, the medication Omalizumab(Xolair) is sometimes used. This medication blocks the action of anti-bodies that are produced by these allergens. Xolair is given by injection generally every two to four weeks.