Medication is the cornerstone of asthma treatment. By taking medication as prescribed, you have a better chance of reducing the number of hospitalizations and attacks you'll have. There are a variety of medications used for asthma, so your doctor might try a few to find one that works well for you. Plus, you may need to take a combination of medications for the best asthma management. Asthma treatments can be broken up into two main groups of medications: long-term and rescue. Here's how they work.
Long-Term Treatments Are Taken Daily For Maintenance
Medications for long-term treatment of asthma are often taken daily. Compliance is important since missing medication could cause your symptoms to flare. These maintenance treatments are to be taken even when you feel fine and are having no asthma symptoms. These medications might be inhaled, such as inhaled corticosteroids, or taken orally, such as with theophylline. Since your asthma could be a chronic condition that stays for life, you may need to be on medications permanently.
Your doctor may have you track how well your maintenance medications are working by having you blow into a peak flow meter daily. When your flow rate drops, that could indicate your airways are tightening. Your doctor might advise you to adjust your medication based on your peak flow readings, or they may prefer you call the office to let them know when your flow rate drops.
Rescue Asthma Treatments Are Taken For Shortness Of Breath
Rescue treatments work differently. These are taken when you experience wheezing or shortness of breath. While it might take weeks of maintenance medication to get results, rescue medications work fast. That's why they are used when you're having an asthma attack rather than increasing the dose of your long-term medications. Rescue medications are often inhaled. These inhaled asthma treatments can widen your bronchial tubes so you can move air more easily.
Your doctor will probably want you to track how many times you need to use your rescue medication. This information shows trends with your asthma and lets the doctor know how well your asthma treatments are working. You'll take long-term medications at the same time every day, but you'll probably need to carry your rescue inhaler with you all the time so you can use it when needed. If you don't experience wheezing or shortness of breath, you won't need to use your rescue medication.
Various things, such as exercise, cold weather, and exposure to cigarette smoke or allergens can cause a sudden asthma flare, so having rescue medication handy is important for managing your condition.