What is a quick treatment for asthma?

A quick asthma treatment aims to provide immediate relief from acute asthma symptoms during an asthma attack or when symptoms worsen. A short-acting beta agonist (SABA), typically delivered via inhaler, is the primary medication used for immediate relief. Albuterol is the most commonly used short-acting beta-agonist (salbutamol).

When a person with asthma experiences symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness, using a SABA inhaler can quickly relax the muscles around the airways, opening them up and making breathing easier. Here’s a step-by-step guide on using a SABA inhaler:

  1. Prepare: Take off the cap and shake the inhaler well.
  2. Breathe out: Exhale fully to create space for the medication in your lungs.
  3. Inhale the medication: Place the mouthpiece of the inhaler between your lips, forming a tight seal. Press down on the canister to release one puff of medication while simultaneously taking a slow and deep breath in through your mouth.
  4. Hold breath: After inhaling, hold your breath for about 10 seconds to allow the medication to reach deep into your airways.
  5. Exhale: Breathe out slowly.
  6. Wait (if necessary): If your healthcare provider recommends a second puff, wait for about 30 to 60 seconds before repeating the process.
  7. Close the inhaler: Put the cap back on the inhaler.

If your symptoms persist or worsen after using the quick-relief inhaler, or if you find yourself using it more frequently than recommended, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. It may indicate inadequate asthma control, and your healthcare provider may need to adjust your asthma management plan or prescribe additional medications.

Quick-relief (rescue) medications are used as needed for rapid, short-term symptom relief during an asthma attack. They may also be used before exercise if your doctor recommends it. Types of quick-relief medications include:

  • Short-acting beta agonists. These inhaled, quick-relief bronchodilators act within minutes to rapidly ease symptoms during an asthma attack. They include albuterol (ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, others) and levalbuterol (Xopenex, Xopenex HFA).Short-acting beta agonists can be taken using a portable, hand-held inhaler or a nebulizer, a machine that converts asthma medications to a fine mist. They’re inhaled through a face mask or mouthpiece.
  • Anticholinergic agents. Like other bronchodilators, ipratropium (Atrovent HFA) and tiotropium (Spiriva, Spiriva Respimat) act quickly to immediately relax your airways, making it easier to breathe. They’re mostly used for emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but can be used to treat asthma.
  • Oral and intravenous corticosteroids. These medications — which include prednisone (Prednisone Intensol, Rayos) and methylprednisolone (Medrol, Depo-Medrol, Solu-Medrol) — relieve airway inflammation caused by severe asthma. They can cause serious side effects when used long term, so these drugs are used only on a short-term basis to treat severe asthma symptoms.
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If you have an asthma flare-up, a quick-relief inhaler can ease your symptoms right away. But you shouldn’t need to use your quick-relief inhaler very often if your long-term control medications are working properly.

Keep a record of how many puffs you use each week. If you need to use your quick-relief inhaler more often than your doctor recommends, see your doctor. You probably need to adjust your long-term control medication.

Allergy medications may help if your asthma is triggered or worsened by allergies. These include:

  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy). Over time, allergy shots gradually reduce your immune system reaction to specific allergens. You generally receive shots once a week for a few months, then once a month for a period of three to five years.
  • Biologics. These medications — which include omalizumab (Xolair), mepolizumab (Nucala), dupilumab (Dupixent), reslizumab (Cinqair) and benralizumab (Fasenra) — are specifically for people who have severe asthma.

Bronchial thermoplasty

This treatment is used for severe asthma that doesn’t improve with inhaled corticosteroids or other long-term asthma medications. It isn’t widely available nor right for everyone.

During bronchial thermoplasty, your doctor heats the insides of the airways in the lungs with an electrode. The heat reduces the smooth muscle inside the airways. This limits the ability of the airways to tighten, making breathing easier and possibly reducing asthma attacks. The therapy is generally done over three outpatient visits.

Treat by severity for better control: A stepwise approach

Your treatment should be flexible and based on changes in your symptoms. Your doctor should ask about your symptoms at each visit. Based on your signs and symptoms, your doctor can adjust your treatment accordingly.

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For example, if your asthma is well controlled, your doctor may prescribe less medication. If your asthma isn’t well controlled or is getting worse, your doctor may increase your medication and recommend more-frequent visits.

Asthma action plan

Work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan that outlines in writing when to take certain medications or when to increase or decrease the dose of your medications based on your symptoms. Also include a list of your triggers and the steps you need to take to avoid them.

Your doctor may also recommend tracking your asthma symptoms or using a peak flow meter on a regular basis to monitor how well your treatment is controlling your asthma.

Remember that while quick-relief medications can provide rapid relief during an asthma attack, they do not address the underlying inflammation that contributes to asthma. For long-term asthma control, it is essential to use controller medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on how and when to use your asthma medications. If you have any questions or concerns about your asthma treatment, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance.