Asthma is a chronic disease which can have symptoms and repeated flare-ups for a long time. Many people with asthma need life-long treatment to control symptoms. However, appropriate treatment can help to control symptoms effectively and can prevent repeated acute attacks. Read to know more on how to treat asthma attack and what you can do to make it better.
Current treatment aims to control the symptoms of asthma and limit repeated acute attacks or flare-ups. Appropriate treatment and preventive measures can help you to avoid or reduce your visits to your healthcare provider or the emergency department. There are two types of medications given for control of symptoms; quick-relief medications and long term control medications.
- Long-term control medications: Your doctor will advise you to take this medication daily to maintain control of persistent asthma. They have been shown to be beneficial in controlling airway inflammation that causes an acute asthma attack.
- Quick-relief medications: These medications provide prompt reversal of an acute asthma attack by relieving acute bronchoconstriction.
Controller Medicines (Long-term control medications)
Inhaled corticosteroids, long acting 2agonists, cromolyn sodium and nedocromil sodium, and anti-leukotriene agents (montelukast and zafirlukast) are the commonly prescribed controller medicines.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids (oral and inhaled) are important for the treatment of asthma. They have been shown to be effective as short and long-term-control medications for asthma. The wide ranging anti-inflammatory activity of steroids makes it effective as preventive therapy and quick relief medication. Use of inhaled corticosteroids is preferred to oral steroids. Some of the commonly prescribed inhaled steroids are budecort, beclomethasone and triamcinolone.
- Long-acting beta-agonists: Salmeterol and formoterol are the commonly used long-acting beta-agonists. These drugs are effective in reducing bronchoconstriction for 12 hours or longer and thereby help to control symptoms of asthma. They can probably reduce inflammation, but are not effective in controlling the underlying cause of the asthma attack.
- Leukotriene inhibitors: Leukotriene inhibitors such as zileuton, zafirlukast and montelukast are also used as controller medications. These drugs reduce inflammation in asthma by blocking leukotrienes (these are powerful chemical substances that promote the inflammatory response) in people with asthma.
- Methylxanthines, cromolyn sodium, and omalizumab are also controller medications. Your doctor will prescribe the controller medicines based on your symptoms and frequency of acute episodes of asthma. All these medications can have side effects if the dose is not taken adequately. Always start any medication in consultation with your doctor and follow your doctor’s recommendations to achieve optimal control of your symptoms.
Short-acting inhaled or oral beta2 agonists, short-course of oral corticosteroids or anticholinergics-ipratropium are used as quick relief medicines or rescue medications. These are taken during an acute asthma attack and are not meant to be used in place of controller drugs. Use of controller medicines should not be stopped during an asthma attack.
- Short-acting beta-agonists (such as salbutamol) are most often prescribed rescue medications. The inhaled short-acting beta-agonists have a rapid onset of action (begin to work within minutes to relieve bronchoconstriction), and the effects can last for four hours. Your doctor may give the medication by using a metered dose inhaler or MDI or nebuliser.
- Anticholinergics (Ipratropium bromide) are also rescue medications given during asthma attacks. Like the beta-agonists, the inhaled anticholinergic drugs also help to open the breathing passages. This drug may be used along with a beta-agonist drug to produce a greater effect than either drug can achieve by itself.
Medications (long-term control medications and quick relief medicines) can effectively control asthma symptoms, but in addition to the medicines you should be aware of your asthma triggers and do what you can to avoid them.