Asthma Home > Long-Term Drugs for Asthma Control

Long-Term Control Medications
These medicines are taken every day, usually over long periods of time, to control chronic symptoms and to prevent asthma episodes or attacks. You will feel the full effects of these medicines after taking them for a few weeks. People with persistent asthma need long-term control medicines.
Long-term control medications used as a treatment for asthma include:
  • Inhaled corticosteroids. These are the preferred treatment for controlling mild, moderate, and severe persistent asthma. They are safe when taken as directed by your doctor. Inhaled medicines go directly into your lungs and reduce the swelling of airways that makes asthma attacks more likely. There are many kinds of inhalers that require different techniques, and it is important to know how to use your inhaler correctly. In some cases, steroid tablets or liquids are used for short periods of time to bring asthma under control. The tablet or liquid form may also be used to control severe asthma.
  • Long-acting beta-agonists. These are bronchodilators, not anti-inflammatory drugs. These medicines are used to help control moderate and severe asthma, and to prevent nighttime asthma symptoms. Long-acting beta-agonists are often taken together with inhaled corticosteroid medicines.
  • Leukotriene modifiers (montelukast, zafirlukast, zileuton). These are long-term control medicines that are used either alone to treat mild persistent asthma or together with inhaled corticosteroids to treat moderate to severe persistent asthma.
  • Cromolyn and nedocromil. These are long-term control medicines used in mild persistent asthma treatment.
  • Theophylline. This is a long-term control medication used either alone for mild persistent asthma or together with inhaled corticosteroids to treat moderate persistent asthma. People who take theophylline should have their blood levels checked regularly to be sure the dose is appropriate.
If you stop taking long-term control medicines, your asthma will likely worsen again.
Many people with asthma need both a short-acting bronchodilator to use when symptoms worsen and long-term daily asthma control medication to treat the ongoing inflammation. Over time, your healthcare provider may need to make changes to your asthma medication. You may need to increase your dose, lower your dose, or try a combination of medications. Be sure to work with your doctor to find the best treatment for your asthma. The goal is to use the least amount of medicine necessary to control your symptoms.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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