How is asthma treated?

Asthma InhalerThere is no cure for asthma - just methods to manage it. Researchers have found that in very young children with mild asthma, symptoms may eventually disappear, then return during adulthood. Researchers are learning how to reduce people's sensitivity to allergens. They are studying how to control symptoms and improve patient education.

While there is no cure for asthma, there are effective treatments for the disease. Treatments include two kinds of medicines. "Quick-relief" or "rescue" medicines relax muscles around airways to relieve symptoms of an acute attack. Anyone with moderate or severe symptoms should have a rescue medicine. Other asthma medicines act more slowly to reduce inflammation, interrupt allergic reactions, or relax muscles around airways. People with moderate or severe asthma usually use combinations of rescue and long-term medications.

Asthma medication comes in many forms, including pills, injections (shots) and inhalers. An inhaler is a plastic tube that releases a mist of medicine into your mouth while you draw a deep breath.

Some people use alternative medicines to treat asthma. These include herbal treatments and the Chinese practice of acupuncture. There are no scientific studies proving these methods reduce asthma or its symptoms. Consult your doctor to learn more.

Managing asthma. Your doctor might have you monitor your asthma's severity at home. This is done with a peak flow meter. After a brief, hard blow into this tube, you can read the peak flow number from it and compare it against what is considered normal for your age and height. This comparison can tell you how severely your lungs are being affected by asthma at any time.

There are many things you can do to help manage your asthma. Take an active role:

  • Know what your asthma symptoms are and what triggers your asthma attacks.
  • Go to the clinic or doctor's office for regular visits.
  • Know how to adjust medicine for certain symptoms.
  • Take your medications as directed.
  • Call your doctor with any questions or problems.

Start treatment immediately after an exposure to a trigger, if possible. If you usually have severe asthma attacks, do not wait for severe symptoms before starting treatment and getting help. This will minimize the effect of this disease on your life and help you be as active as possible.

To learn more:

Asthma Medicines
(American Lung Association)
This gives detailed information on the types of medications used to treat asthma.
(National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)
This site provides information on how to control asthma and describes how to use metered-dose inhalers.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials allow scientists and doctors to test new ways to treat illnesses. They are also an option for people to try something new at less cost. If you have asthma or some other lung disease or condition, you might want to consider participating in a clinical trial. The following links may help you decide if you want to be in a clinical trial.
Learn About Clinical Studies
(National Library of Medicine)
Explains clinical trials in a question and answer format. Presents lots of information that patients and their families will want to know if they are thinking about enrolling in a clinical trial. A list of questions to ask your doctor or the people doing the study is very helpful. Asthma
(National Library of Medicine)
This government site lists all asthma related clinical trials currently being conducted and provides contact information.

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Written by: Lillian Trettin, Ph.D.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Monday October 08, 2018 10:37 AM