Asthma Medications

  • Medical Author:
    Syed Shahzad Mustafa, MD

    After growing up in the Rochester area, Dr. Mustafa pursued his undergraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and attended medical school at SUNY Buffalo. He then completed his internal medicine training at the University of Colorado and stayed in Denver to complete his fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Colorado, National Jewish Health, and Children's Hospital of Denver.

  • Medical Author: Allison Ramsey, MD
    Allison Ramsey, MD

    Dr. Allison Ramsey earned her undergraduate degree at Colgate University and her medical degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She completed her internal medicine training at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and remained at the university to complete her fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology. Dr. Ramsey is board certified in internal medicine and allergy and immunology. Her professional interests include the treatment of drug allergy and eosinophilic disorders. She also enjoys teaching medical trainees. She is a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the New York State Allergy Society, and the Finger Lakes Allergy Society. In her personal life, her interests include exercise, especially running and horseback riding; and spending time with her husband and two children.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View Asthma Slideshow Pictures

Childhood Asthma Treatment

There is often concern about potential long-term side effects for even inhaled corticosteroids. Numerous studies have repeatedly shown that even long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids has very few if any sustained clinically significant side effects, including growth in children. However, the goal always remains to treat children (and adults) with the least amount of medication that is effective.

Quick GuideAsthma Pictures Slideshow: The Anatomy of an Asthma Attack

Asthma Pictures Slideshow: The Anatomy of an Asthma Attack

Who is a candidate for asthma medication?

Any patient who has a diagnosis of asthma is a candidate for an asthma medication. Patients with mild, infrequent asthma symptoms may only need a short-acting rescue medication to use when needed, such as albuterol (Ventolin HFA, Proventil-HFA, Vospire ER, ProAir HFA). Patients with more frequent and persistent asthma symptoms are candidates for daily medications. The choice of medication will depend on the severity of the condition.

What are controller medications for asthma (long-term control)?

A controller medication is a daily medication that is used to prevent or improve asthma symptoms in patients who experience frequent symptoms. The decision to use a controller medication for a patient with asthma is based on the frequency and type of daytime or nighttime symptoms, frequency of medical visits for asthma, frequency of requiring asthma rescue medications, frequency of oral steroid use, impact of asthma symptoms on daily life, and breathing tests for asthma, which are performed in the medical office. In patients requiring controller medications, inhaled corticosteroids are generally considered as the first-line therapy for asthma.

What are rescue medications for asthma (short-term control)?

A rescue medication for asthma is a medication that works within minutes to open the airways (bronchodilate) and provides quick relief from asthma symptoms, such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, cough, or wheezing. The rescue medications for asthma include albuterol, levalbuterol (Xopenex), and ipratropium (Atrovent). Of these, albuterol is by far the most commonly prescribed rescue medication for asthma. Levalbuterol is the chemical mirror image of albuterol and may have less potential to make patients restless or jittery. Ipratropium has shown to be helpful when used along with albuterol in patients requiring emergency treatment for asthma. It also may be used in patients who are unable to tolerate albuterol or levalbuterol.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/27/2015

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