Asthma Treatment and Action Plan

Your provider will work with you to create a treatment plan, called an asthma action plan. Treatment usually depends on your age, how serious your asthma is, and how your body responds to the medicines.

How is asthma treated?

Some people take daily medicines to control and prevent symptoms. But you can also carry medicines to use during an attack, such as a rescue inhaler. Your doctor may adjust your treatment until asthma symptoms are controlled.

Watch our video to learn about treatment for asthma.

Quick-relief medicines

Quick-relief medicines help prevent or relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. They may be the only medicines needed for mild asthma or asthma that happens only with physical activity.

Your doctor will prescribe a quick-relief inhaler for you to carry at all times. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn how to use your asthma inhaler correctly.

Types of quick-relief medicines include:

  • Inhaled short-acting beta2-agonists(SABAs) open the airways so air can flow through them during an asthma attack. Side effects can include tremors and rapid heartbeat.
  • Oral corticosteroids reduce swelling in your airways caused by severe asthma symptoms.
  • Short-acting anticholinergics help open the airways quickly. This medicine may be less effective than SABAs, but it is an option for people who may have side effects from SABAs.

Long-term control medicines

Your doctor may prescribe medicines to take daily to help prevent asthma attacks and control symptoms.

  • Corticosteroids (steroid hormone medicines) reduce inflammation in the body. They may be taken as a pill or inhaled. The pill form can have more serious side effects than the inhaled form. Over time, high doses can raise your risk of cataracts (clouding of the eye) or osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes your bones more likely to break. Common side effects from inhaled corticosteroids include a hoarse voice or a mouth infection called thrush.
  • Biologic medicines may be prescribed for severe asthma. These include medicines such as benralizumab that are injected into a vein or below the skin.
  • Leukotriene modifiers reduce swelling and keep your airways open. Your doctor may prescribe these pills alone or with steroid medicine.
  • Inhaled mast cell stabilizers, such as cromolyn, help prevent swelling in your airways when you are around allergens or other asthma triggers.
  • Inhaled long-acting bronchodilators, such as long-acting beta2-agonists (LABAs) or long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMAs), may be added to your inhaler to prevent your airways from narrowing.
  • Allergy shots, called subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), reduce the body’s response to allergens.

Bronchial thermoplasty

Bronchial thermoplasty may help if you have severe asthma and other treatments are not working. In this procedure, your doctor inserts a tube called a bronchoscope into your mouth. The bronchoscope has a camera at the end. Your doctor will guide the bronchoscope into your airways to see inside them. Your doctor will then apply heat to the muscles along the airways. This makes them thinner and helps prevent them from narrowing.

Bronchial Thermoplasty

Is Bronchial Thermoplasty Right for You?

This 2-page fact sheet describes the procedure, its benefits and risks, and what to discuss with your doctor.

Create an asthma action plan

An asthma action plan is a written treatment plan that describes the following:

  • How to identify allergens or irritants to avoid
  • How to know if you are having an asthma attack and what to do
  • Which medicines to take and when to take them
  • When to call your doctor or go to the emergency room
  • Who to contact in an emergency

Watch the video or download a sample Asthma Action Plan.

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