Treatment - Asthma - Treatment

If you are like most people who have asthma, treatment can manage your symptoms, allow you to resume normal activities, and prevent asthma attacks. Treatment usually depends on your age, asthma severity, and your response to a given treatment option. Your doctor may adjust your treatment until asthma symptoms are controlled.

Most people who have asthma are treated with daily medicine, called long-term control medicines, along with inhalers containing medicine for short-term relief during an asthma attack or when symptoms worsen. An inhaler allows the medicine to go into the mouth and airways.

Control medicines
- Asthma - Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe control medicines to take daily to help prevent symptoms by reducing airway inflammation and preventing narrowing of the airways. Return to Causes to review what causes asthma symptoms.

Control medicines include the following:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce the body’s inflammatory response. Your doctor may prescribe inhaled corticosteroids that you will need to take each day. If your symptoms get worse, your doctor may increase the dose of the inhaled corticosteroids to prevent severe asthma attacks or even give corticosteroids by mouth for short periods. Common side effects from inhaled corticosteroids include a hoarse voice or a mouth infection called thrush. A spacer or holding chamber on your inhaler can help avoid these side effects. Using high-dose inhaled corticosteroids more often or for longer periods may affect growth in young children. Oral corticosteroids also have more side effects than inhaled corticosteroids because more of the medicine goes outside the lungs.
  • Biologics, such as omalizumab, mepolizumab, resulizumab, and benralizumab, to target specific parts of the body’s response to allergens. Biologics are antibodies used in people who have severe asthma. These medicines are given by injection, either below the skin or in a vein, every few weeks.
  • Leukotriene modifiers to reduce the effects of leukotrienes, which are released in the body as part of the response to allergens. Leukotrienes cause the airway muscles to tighten. These medicines block this response, allowing the airways to open, and reduce inflammation. You take these pills by mouth, alone or with corticosteroids, depending on what your doctor prescribes.
  • Mast cell stabilizers such as cromolyn, to help prevent airway inflammation caused by exposure to allergens or other triggers. These medicines stop certain immune cells from releasing the signals that cause inflammation.
  • Inhaled long-acting beta2-agonists (LABAs) keep the airways open by preventing narrowing of the airways. LABAs may be added to your inhaled corticosteroids to reduce narrowing and inflammation.

Short-term relief medicines
- Asthma - Treatment

Short-term relief medicines, also called quick-relief medicines, help prevent symptoms or relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. They may be the only medicine needed for mild asthma or asthma that only happens with physical activity.

Your doctor will prescribe a quick-relief inhaler for you or your child to carry at all times. Learn how to use your asthma inhaler correctly.

Types of short-term relief medicines include:

  • Inhaled short-acting beta2-agonists (SABAs) to quickly relax tight muscles around your airways. This allows the airways to open up so air can flow through them. Side effects can include tremors and rapid heartbeat. SABAs are usually the only medicine used to treat wheezing in children under 5 years old. If symptoms and medical history suggest asthma, doctors may treat it with inhaled corticosteroids for a trial period to see if they help. If symptoms do not improve, corticosteroids will be stopped to avoid side effects.
  • Oral and intravenous (IV) corticosteroids to reduce inflammation caused by severe asthma symptoms.
  • Short-acting anticholinergics to 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.

Emergency care
- Asthma - Treatment

If you have a severe asthma attack and need emergency care, you may be treated with medicines, such as those listed above, given with a nebulizer or IV. You may also receive oxygen therapy or breathing assistance, either through a tube inserted in the airway or through noninvasive ventilation, which uses a mask with forced air that covers the face to support breathing.

- Asthma - Treatment

Your doctor may recommend a procedure called bronchial thermoplasty if you have severe asthma and other treatments are not working. In this procedure, your doctor will enter the airways through the mouth with a bronchoscope. This helps your doctor see inside the airways. Your doctor then will apply heat to the muscles along the airways to make them thinner and help prevent constriction.

Look for
- Asthma - Treatment

  • Research for Your Health will discuss how we are using current research and advancing research to treat people who have asthma.
  • Participate in NHLBI Clinical Trials will explain our open and enrolling clinical studies that are investigating treatments for asthma.
  • Living With will discuss what your doctor may recommend including lifelong lifestyle changes and medical care to prevent your asthma from getting worse or having an asthma attack.