Asthma Home > Asthma Medication

People take asthma medication to both treat and prevent attacks, and various types of medications are available to achieve these goals. Rapid-acting medicines, such as bronchodilators, are used to help relieve an asthma attack once it has started. Steroids, on the other hand, are a type of long-acting asthma medication used to prevent attacks from occurring.

An Overview of Medications for Asthma

Many different types of drugs are approved for asthma. Some are inhaled directly into the lungs, while others are taken orally as a tablet or capsule. Some are rapid-acting "rescue medications" used to relieve an asthma attack, while others are long-acting and help to prevent asthma attacks. Types of asthma medication include:
  • Bronchodilators
  • Steroids
  • Combination medications
  • Miscellaneous other asthma medications.
Many people with asthma take several different types of asthma medications. Everyone with asthma should have a short-acting bronchodilator. In addition, some people take a long-acting bronchodilator, inhaled steroid, or one of the other medicines available.
Bronchodilators are medications that directly relax (or "dilate") the muscles of the airway. Rapid-acting bronchodilators are "rescue medications" used to help relieve an asthma attack. Asthma medications in this category include:
Long-acting bronchodilators are taken on a regular basis to prevent asthma attacks, but are not used to treat an asthma attack. These types of medications include:
All of the medications listed in this article, other than terbutaline and theophylline, are inhaled directly into the lungs, using either an inhaler or a device called a nebulizer. Terbutaline and theophylline are taken orally (by mouth).
Please note that a few other bronchodilators are available that were not mentioned in this article because they are not approved for asthma treatment.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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