Treatment

Medications are the main way to treat asthma, along with taking care of yourself and avoiding asthma triggers. Asthma medications include inhalers for long-term asthma control, quick-relief inhalers, and oral or injected medications, among other options.

Jump To+

Asthma is treated with medicine to help you breathe easier, along with self-care.

It's important to treat asthma, because even mild asthma can damage your airways. By following your treatment plan, you can meet your goals to:

  • Prevent symptoms.
  • Keep your lung function as close to normal as possible.
  • Be able to do your normal daily activities, including work, school, exercise, and recreation.
  • Prevent asthma attacks.
  • Have few or no side effects from medicine.

Medicines

Asthma medicines can be divided into three groups.

  1. Long-term (controller) medicines. Inhaled corticosteroids are the preferred controller medicines for treating asthma over the long term. They reduce inflammation of your airways. You take them every day to keep asthma under control and to prevent sudden and severe symptoms (asthma attacks).
  2. Quick-relief medicines. These medicines help you breathe better during an asthma attack. They include short-acting beta2-agonists and anticholinergics. These medicines relax the airways, which makes it easier for you to breathe. You use them only when you need to.
  3. Oral or injected corticosteroids.These medicines can be used to treat any sudden and severe symptoms (asthma attacks), such as shortness of breath.

Other medicines may be given in some cases.

Most medicines for asthma are inhaled. These types of medicines go straight to your airways, where the problem is.

Other asthma treatments

  1. Bronchial thermoplasty. If you have severe asthma, bronchial thermoplasty may be an option. This treatment is being studied in clinical trials. For this treatment, bronchoscopy is used to apply heat to the airways. This may help reduce the thickness of the airways and may help improve the ability to breathe.
  2. Immunotherapy. If you have asthma symptoms that are triggered by allergens, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy. For this treatment, you get allergy shots or use pills that have a small amount of certain allergens in them. Your body "gets used to" the allergen, so you react less to it over time. This kind of treatment may help prevent or reduce some allergy symptoms. For some people, allergy shots reduce asthma symptoms and the need for medicines. But allergy shots don't work equally well for all allergens. Allergy shots should not be given when asthma is poorly controlled.
  3. Complementary medicine. Complementary medicine is a term used for a wide variety of health care practices that may be used along with standard medical treatment. Some people have found that mind and body practices such as acupuncture, breathing exercises, and yoga have been helpful for their asthma. But reviewers who have looked at the research say that there isn't enough scientific evidence to say that complementary practices will help people who have asthma.Talk with your doctor about any complementary health practice that you would like to try or are already using. Your doctor can help you manage your health better if he or she has the whole picture about your health.

Asthma treatment and pregnancy

Pregnant women manage asthma the same way nonpregnant women do. Like all people with asthma, pregnant women need to have an asthma action plan to help them control inflammation and prevent and control asthma attacks. Part of a pregnant woman's action plan should be to record fetal movements. You can do this by noting whether fetal kicks decrease over time. If you notice less fetal activity during an asthma attack, contact your doctor or emergency help immediately to get instructions.

Things to think about for asthma in pregnant women include the following:

  • If more than one health professional is involved in the pregnancy and asthma care, they must communicate with each other about treatment. The obstetrician must be involved with asthma care.
  • Monitor lung function carefully throughout your pregnancy to ensure that your growing fetus gets enough oxygen. Because asthma severity changes for about two-thirds of women during pregnancy, you should have monthly checkups with your doctor to monitor your symptoms and lung function. Your doctor will use either spirometry or a peak flow meter to measure your lung function.
  • Monitor fetal movements daily after 28 weeks.
  • If your asthma is not well controlled or if you have moderate or severe asthma, think about having ultrasounds after 32 weeks to monitor fetal growth. Ultrasound exams can also help your doctor check on the fetus after an asthma attack.
  • Try to do more to avoid and control asthma triggers (such as tobacco smoke or dust mites), so that you can take less medicine if possible. Many women have nasal symptoms, and there may be a link between increased nasal symptoms and asthma attacks. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is common in pregnancy, may also cause symptoms.
  • It is important that you have extra protection against the flu (influenza). Get the flu vaccine as soon as it's available, whether you are in your first, second, or third trimester at the time. The flu vaccine is effective for one season. The flu shot is safe in pregnancy and is recommended for all pregnant women.

Asthma medicines and pregnancy

A review of the animal and human studies on the effects of asthma medicines taken during pregnancy found few risks to the woman or her fetus. It is safer for a pregnant woman who has asthma to be treated with asthma medicines than for her to have asthma symptoms and asthma attacks. Poor control of asthma is a greater risk to the fetus than asthma medicines are. Budesonide is labeled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the safest inhaled corticosteroid to use during pregnancy. One study found that low-dose inhaled budesonide in pregnant women seemed to be safe for the mother and the fetus.

Never stop taking or reduce your medicines without talking to your doctor. You might have to wait until your pregnancy is over to make changes in your medicine.

Always talk to your doctor before using any medicine when you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

©2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Causes & Risk Factors

Learn More

Prevention

Learn More

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Learn More

Complications

Learn More

Treatment

Learn More

Self-Care

Learn More

Causes & Risk Factors

Learn More

Prevention

Learn More

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Learn More

Complications

Learn More

Treatment

Learn More

Self-Care

Learn More