Dr. M.J. Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Asthma Medications
What medications are used to treat asthma?
Most people with asthma need 2 kinds of asthma medicine: 1 for quick relief and 1 for long-term control.
Everyone with asthma needs a quick-relief medicine to stop asthma attacks. Many people also need a preventive medicine, or controller, every day to protect the lungs and keep asthma attacks from starting.
Make sure you have a written treatment plan from your doctor and understand how to follow it.
How safe are preventive medicines for asthma?
Preventive medicine makes the airways less swollen. Preventive medicines for asthma are safe to use every day. You will not become addicted to these medicines even if you use them for many years.
Your doctor may tell you to take preventive medicine every day if:
Be prepared. Always have asthma medicine.
Always carry your quick-relief asthma medicine with you when you leave home. Follow the instructions in the box on the next page.
Act fast if an asthma attack starts.
Know the signs that an asthma attack is starting:
If you know what started the attack, avoid it if you can.
Use your quick-relief asthma medicine.
Stay calm for 1 hour to be sure breathing gets better.
What if I don't get better?
Get emergency help from your doctor if you do not get better.
Call your doctor or seek emergency care if you see any of these asthma danger signs:
Can I use the quick-relief medicine too much?
Quick-relief medicine for asthma makes you feel better for a while. It may stop the attack. With some attacks, you may think you are getting better but the airways are getting more and more swollen. Then you are in danger of having a very bad asthma attack that could kill you.
If you use quick-relief medicine every day to stop asthma attacks, this means you need a preventive medicine for long-term control.
How to Use a Spray Inhaler
Without a spacer
  1. Take off the cap. Shake the inhaler.
  2. Stand up. Breathe out.
  3. Put the inhaler in your mouth or put it just in front of your mouth. As you start to breathe in, push down on the top of the inhaler and keep breathing in slowly.
  4. Hold your breath for 10 seconds. Breathe out.
With a spacer


(A spacer, or a holding chamber, makes it easier to use a spray inhaler.)
  1. Put the open end of the spacer in your mouth.
  2. Spray the asthma medicine into the spacer one time.
  3. Take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds.
  4. Breathe out into the spacer.
  5. Breathe in again, but do not spray the medicine again.
Adapted from "What you and your family can do about asthma," a patient information booklet published by the Global Initiative for Asthma, a joint effort of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the World Health Organization. This and other publications are available through the Internet (http://www.ginasthma.com).