Your doctor will determine which medications you should take, the amount (dosage),
and how often you should take them. The treatment plan will depend largely
on the severity of your asthma episodes.
Guidelines developed by the National Institutes of Health recommend a "step-down,
step-up" approach to asthma management. This simply means that when you are
first evaluated, you may be given a dosage high enough to quickly bring your
symptoms under control. Then, as your doctor monitors you with follow-up visits,
your dosage may be lowered until you are taking the least amount of drug required
to keep you symptom-free.
If the dose is lowered too far, your doctor will "step up" the dose back to
a level needed for adequate control. This step-down, step-up strategy is not
needed or appropriate for all patients.
The severity of your asthma will impact how fast your symptoms can be controlled,
but you should notice a great deal of improvement after treatment is started.
For people with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma, the doctor should be able
to fine-tune the treatment within 3 months. For those with severe persistent
asthma, it may take up to 6 months. All people with asthma should continue
to visit their doctor at least twice a year to make sure that they are still
achieving optimal control.
You may experience more side effects from the medications at the beginning
when you are taking higher doses. These are likely to lessen if the dosages
|Note: The inhalers pictured here are just examples.
Inhalers for both control and quick relief medicine come in many sizes,
shapes, and colors. In addition, your medicine can be taken through other
methods, such as a nebulizer.
Control vs. relief
There are two major types of asthma drugs. The first type is called a long-term
control drug. These medicines are used to treat persistent asthma
on a daily basis to PREVENT asthma attacks. If you have young children with
asthma, your child can call these the "quiet" drugs -- the drugs to take
every day, even when your child is NOT wheezing, coughing, or experiencing
other symptoms. (This is a term the consumer group Mothers of Asthmatics
The second type of asthma medicine is called a quick-relief drug.
These medicines are used DURING an asthma attack to bring fast relief. With
children, you might want to refer to these as the "noisy drugs" -- the ones
to take when your child IS coughing, wheezing, having breathing difficulties,
or feeling chest tightness.
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report: guidelines
for the diagnosis and management of asthma update on selected topics -- 2002. J
Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002 Nov;110(5 pt 2):S141-219.
Review Date: 5/16/2007
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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