There are several options when treating asthma. Some of the most common methods for treating this condition include avoiding triggers -- things that can cause asthma symptoms or make them worse -- and using asthma medications. Often, these medicines are administered through an inhaler or a nebulizer. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms, prevent attacks, and enable the patient to live a normal life.
You and your healthcare provider can decide about your treatment goals and what you need to do to control your asthma. Treatment options for asthma include:
One of the primary asthma treatments is to avoid asthma triggers. A trigger is something that causes irritation to the airways that move air in and out of your lungs. Common asthma triggers include cold air, exercise, dust mites, smoke, pollen, or even catching a cold. Once these triggers are identified, they can be avoided to prevent asthma attacks.
Asthma treatment with medications allows people with asthma to lead normal lives. Some medications are continuous treatments that prevent attacks. Other medications are used for quick relief during an acute asthma attack.
The asthma treatments that your physician chooses for you will depend on the frequency and severity of your symptoms. In general, if you experience mild asthma symptoms less than once a week, you likely will not need a daily medication to prevent attacks. You may only get a quick-relief medication to relieve a sudden attack. If your symptoms occur more often and are more severe, you may need a daily controller medication.
Many of these medications are inhaled through the mouth using a metered-dose inhaler. A nebulizer, a machine that produces a mist of medication for breathing in, may also be used.
Beta-adrenergic receptor agonists, such as albuterol, are the most common medications used for relieving sudden attacks of asthma. These medications widen your airways so that you can breathe more easily during an asthma attack. Effects usually occur within minutes. Some longer-lasting beta-adrenergic receptor agonists may be used for prevention rather than rapid relief.
For daily treatment of asthma, a corticosteroid medication may be used to reduce asthma symptoms and to decrease the sensitivity of the airways. Other controller medications for daily use include:
- Long-lasting beta-adrenergic receptor agonists (as mentioned above)
- Leukotriene modifiers.
In very severe asthma attacks, oxygen and IV fluids may be needed. Antibiotics may be used if the physician suspects an infection.