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Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.

Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.
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Asthma treatment

3-minute read

Asthma treatment is based on two important goals:

  • relief of symptoms
  • preventing future symptoms and attacks from developing

Depending on how severe your asthma is, your doctor may prescribe you one or more types of asthma medicine:

  • A reliever medicine relaxes the airway muscles and makes it easier to breathe when you have asthma symptoms. If you find you are using your reliever more often than two times a week, you should see your doctor.
  • A preventer medicine helps to reduce the inflammation in your airways. It should be taken every day, even when you have no symptoms.
  • A symptom controller relaxes the airway muscles for 12-24 hours, helping to reduce the symptoms of asthma. Symptom controllers are always used with an inhaled corticosteroid medicine (preventer).
  • A combination medication contains both a preventer and a symptom controller in one inhaler.

Treatment should be designed to ensure your asthma is well controlled. This means:

  • you don’t have symptoms on more than two days a week
  • you don’t need your reliever medication on more than two days a week
  • your asthma doesn’t limit what you can do
  • you don’t have symptoms at night or when you wake up

You can test whether your asthma is well controlled with Asthma Australia’s Asthma Control Test.

Visit your doctor regularly to review your overall asthma management plan, including how well your medicines are working.

Always take your asthma preventer as instructed by your doctor, even when you are well.

Asthma medicines are usually given by inhalers (called meter dose inhalers, or MDIs), commonly referred to as ‘puffers’. Other delivery devices deliver the drug using a dry powder. Puffers and dry powder inhalers are devices that deliver the drug directly into the airways through your mouth when you breathe in and require some training to ensure an effective technique.

Using your inhaler properly is important. To check you are using your inhaler as effectively as possible, please review regularly with your doctor.

Often inhalers work better if given through a spacer, though many patients are unaware of this, and not receiving an adequate amount of medication. A spacer is a large plastic container with a mouthpiece at one end and a hole for the inhaler at the other. Spacers should be used by:

  • all children - aged under 4-5 years will need a mask attached to the spacer
  • all adults taking a corticosteroid preventer medication using an MDI/puffer
  • adults who have trouble coordinating the ‘press and breathe’ technique when using an MDI/puffer
  • anyone taking a reliever medication during an asthma attack

Managing your asthma means taking control of your health and living your life to the full. With the right knowledge, skills and medication you can do just about anything – asthma shouldn’t stop you.

You can find more information about the different medications you may need to use and how they work, along with how to use inhalers, and some information about complementary therapies, on the Asthma Australia website.

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Last reviewed: June 2018

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