The treatment strategy for asthma includes:
- Preventing asthma attacks
- Monitoring your asthma
You and your doctor should also create an asthma action plan. This is a plan you will follow to help control your asthma and handle asthma attacks.
We prescribe two types of asthma medications: those that control asthma, and those that stop asthma attacks.
Medications Used to Control Asthma
These medications control chronic swelling:
- Inhaled corticosteroid—used daily to reduce inflammation in your airways
- Long-acting beta agonists—(such as inhaled salmeterol ) used daily to prevent asthma attacks. In most cases, prescribed with an inhaled corticosteroid
- May increase the risk of asthma-related death, intubation (putting a tube in the windpipe to breath), and hospitalization—If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.
- Cromolyn sodium or nedocromil sodium inhaler—used daily to prevent asthma flare-ups or to prevent exercise-induced symptoms
- Zafirlukast , zileuton , and montelukast —taken daily to help prevent asthma attacks
- Omalizumab —a monoclonal antibody against immunoglobulin E (IgE), given as an injection under the skin, used along with other medications for patients with harder to control asthma
- Theophylline —taken daily to help prevent asthma attacks, not as commonly used because of interactions with other drugs
Medications Used to Treat an Asthma Attack
These medications treat existing asthma attacks:
- Quick-acting beta agonists—(such as inhaled albuterol, xopenex ) relax your airways so that they become wider again, may also be used to avoid exercise-induced asthma attacks
- Anticholinergic agents—inhaled medications, such as ipratropium, that function as a bronchodilator, typically only used in an emergency setting
- Corticosteroids—pills, injections or IV medications given to treat acute flare-up of symptoms
- Pills may be taken for a longer period of time. They may also be recommended to help control asthma if you have severe asthma that isn't responding to other treatments.
Preventing Asthma Attacks
Allergy avoidance can be very effective with asthma that is exacerbated by allergens. Some general tips for allergen avoidance include:
- Avoid outside activities if there are high levels of air pollution, pollen, or mold spores.
- Keep your windows closed during seasons with high pollen or mold spores. Air conditioning may help filter out allergens during warm seasons.
- Consider getting a portable HEPA unit air cleaner to use in sleeping areas.
- Consider getting HEPA filters for your heating/cooling system and your vacuum cleaner.
- Have someone else vacuum for you. Avoid a room that has been freshly vacuumed. If you do vacuum, use a dust mask.
- Keep the humidity down in your house. This may help prevent the growth of mold.
- Treat allergies and sinusitis as recommended.
- Avoid strenuous outdoor exercise during days with high air pollution, a high pollen count, or a high ozone level.
- Get a yearly seasonal flu shot. Colds and flus can exacerbate asthma.
- Don't smoke. If you are pregnant, it is very important that you do not smoke.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home.
- Don't use a wood-burning stove or fireplace, including unvented gas fireplaces.
- If cold weather triggers your asthma, avoid strenuous activities in cold weather. If you must, use a scarf or mask to warm the air before it reaches your lungs.
- Avoid strong chemicals or odors like perfume.
Monitoring Your Asthma
Your asthma plan may need to be adjusted to adapt to changes in your life or health. Staying in contact with your doctor between visits can help you have better control of your asthma. You can reach your UVA provider through MyChart.
Talk to your doctor about:
- An appropriate level of exercise for you
- Allergy shots
- Breathing exercises
- Ways to track your asthma to help identify and treat flare-ups right away
- Your work, hobbies, and home activities to see if any of these may be causing or worsening your asthma