Asthma medication plays a key role in how well you control your condition. There are two main types of treatment, each geared toward a specific goal.
- Controller medications are the most important because they prevent asthma attacks. When you use these drugs, your airways are less inflamed and less likely to react to triggers.
- Quick-relief medications — also called rescue medications — relax the muscles around your airway. If you have to use a rescue medication more than twice a week, your asthma isn’t well-controlled. But people who have exercise-induced asthma may use a quick-acting med called a beta-agonist before a workout.
The right medication should allow you to live an active and normal life. If your asthma symptoms aren’t controlled, ask your doctor to help you find a different treatment that works better.
Long-Term Control Medications
Some of these drugs should be taken daily to get your asthma under control and keep it that way. Others are taken on an as needed basis to reduce the severity of an asthma attack.
The most effective ones stop airway inflammation. Your doctor may suggest you combine an inhaled corticosteroid, an anti-inflammatory drug with other drugs such as:
- Long-acting beta-agonists. A beta-agonist is a type of drug called a bronchodilator, which opens your airways.
- Long-acting anticholinergics. Anticholinergics relax and enlarge (dilate) the airways in the lungs, making breathing easier (bronchodilators).
- Tiotropium bromide (Spiriva Respimat) is an anticholinergic available for anyone ages 6 and older. This medicine should be used in addition to your regular maintenance medication.
- Leukotriene modifiers block chemicals that cause inflammation.
- Mast cell stabilizers curb the release of chemicals that cause inflammation.
- Theophylline is a bronchodilator used as an add-on medication for symptoms that are not responding to other medications.
- An immunomodulator is an injection given if you have moderate to severe asthma related to allergies or other inflammation caused by the immune system that doesn’t respond to certain drugs.
- Reslizumab (Cinqair) is an immunomodulator maintenance medication. It is used along with your regular asthma medicines. This medicine is given every 4 weeks as an intravenous injection over a period of about an hour. This drug works by reducing the number of a specific type of white blood cells, called eosinophils, that play a role in causing asthma symptoms. It can reduce severe asthma attacks.
- Mepolizumab (Nucala) targets the levels of blood eosinophils. It is given as an injection every 4 weeks and is used as a maintenance therapy medication.
- Omalizumab (Xolair) is an antibody that blocks immunoglobulin E (IgE) and is used as an asthma maintenance medication. This prevents an allergen from triggering an asthma attack. This drug is given as an injection. To receive this medicine, a person has to have an elevated IgE level and have known allergies. The allergies need to be confirmed by either blood or skin test.