Asthma Medication

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Most patients with asthma need 2 kinds of medicines

  • A quick relief medicine (relievers) helps in bronchodilation (opening the airways) during mild asthma attacks. These medicines provide only instant relief and do not prevent recurrent attacks as they have no action on the underlying inflammation (swelling, secretions in the airways). They are to be taken on an SOS (as and when required) basis for symptomatic relief. 

Always carry your “reliever” with you when you leave home.

  • A preventive medicine (preventers) is needed every day to protect the lung in the long run. Preventer drugs do not provide any immediate relief in symptoms but prevent recurrent attacks (by reducing inflammation) when taken regularly by the patient. Most of these “preventers” have to be taken for more than 1 – 3 weeks regularly in the right dose (consult physician) for their effect to start . They do not provide any relief if taken on an SOS basis. 

Always remember to take your “preventers” every day and carry them with you when leaving town.

Quick relief medicine Preventive medicine
These medicines give instant relief but act for 4 to 6 hours. Preventers do not give immediate relief, but are to be taken regularly.
They relieve cough and breathlessness when there is an attack and do not prevent future attacks. When they are used for a long time, they control asthma better and prevent any attack from taking place.
They act by dilating the airways but do not reduce the inflammation. They act by reducing inflammation and prevent swelling of the airways.
Examples are

  • ß2 – agonist like Salbutamol, Terbutaline
  • Anticholinergics – Ipratropium bromide
  • Combinations of above
Examples are

  • Corticosteroids (Fluticasone, Budesonide,Triamcinolone, Beclomethasone)
  • Long acting Theophyllines
  • Sodium Cromoglycate
Side effects* include palpitations, tremors of hand, cramps, drying of mouth. Side effects* include restlessness, vomiting, cramps, fungal infection (mouth), increase in blood sugar, increase in blood pressure.


Most of the side effects occur on long term unsupervised self treatment. Patients are advised to take all their drugs under the strict supervision of a doctor. Doctor is the best judge for any change in the medication and hence the patient is advised to consult his/her doctor in case of any side effects.

  • Inhaled steroids are potent anti inflammatory drugs and are the most preferred “preventers”.
  • Proper use of inhaled drugs (both “relievers” and “preventers”) can lead to effective control of asthma.
  • A patient needs regular “preventer” therapy, if he needs to take his “reliever” on a daily basis.
  • The emphasis in asthma treatment is on long term preventive therapy to reduce the inflammation.