There are lots of treatments available to help you with your asthma. How asthma is treated can vary based on age and lifestyle factors. Different treatment pathways are recommended for adults (aged 17 and over), for children aged 5-16, and for children under five. But in all cases, the goal is to make help manage your asthma and its effect on your life and wellbeing.
The most common form of treatment is an inhaler. Inhalers contain measured doses of medication that you take into your airways when you breathe in.
The most common inhalers are preventer inhalers, which try to stop asthma symptoms from occurring, and reliever inhalers, which help to relieve asthma symptoms when they do occur.
Preventer inhalers usually contain a medication called steroids. They are similar to substances our bodies make naturally. Inhaling extra steroids every day helps to control the inflammation and reduces asthma symptoms.
The dose of steroid given by an inhaler is usually very low and unlikely to cause any side effects. Occasionally the steroid can make your mouth dry or sore. You can reduce the chance of this by rinsing your mouth with water after using the inhaler, or by using a spacer. A spacer is a large, empty container made of plastic.
Most people with asthma need to take their preventer medication regularly, once or twice a day.
You only need to take your reliever inhaler when symptoms start. Take it as early as possible when you get common symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness or a tight chest.
Reliever inhalers contain a medication called short-acting beta agonists, or SABAs, which relax the muscles around the tightened airways, so the airways can open wider. This makes it easier to breathe and reduces your symptoms. The most common SABA is salbutamol, often known as Ventolin.
Reliever inhalers work very quickly and you will usually be able to feel the benefit straight away. 1
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will:
- Teach you how to use your inhaler correctly when you first use it
- Ensure you use your inhaler properly at every asthma check up
If you aren’t using your inhaler correctly the medication won’t be able to get into your airways and help with your condition.
Why it’s important to take your asthma medicines
Taking your asthma preventer medicines, as prescribed, will mean your airways are less inflamed and sensitive and symptoms will be reduced.
When your asthma medicines are working well you can expect to notice a reduction in:
- Daytime symptoms
- Waking up at night because of your asthma
- Use of your blue reliever inhaler
- Asthma attacks
Other treatments for asthma
If your asthma is not under control, your doctor may suggest other preventative treatments to reduce inflammation. They include a tablet such as montelukast or an injection given in a hospital.
You can also help to manage your asthma by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight and keeping fit and active
- Getting an annual flu jab
- Quit smoking if you’re a smoker