Asthma: Diagnosis and Treatment Pt. 2

Once asthma is diagnosed, a treatment plan should be initiated as quickly as possible to manage asthma symptoms.

The first step in bringing asthma  under control is to reduce or avoid exposure to known allergens or triggers as much as possible. Treatment goals for all patients with asthma are to prevent troublesome symptoms, maintain lung function as close to normal as possible, avoid emergency room visits or hospitalizations, allow participation in normal activities


Asthma is treated with two types of medicines — a long-term medication and a quick relief medication. The quick relief medicine is also called a “rescue” medication. The long-term medication helps reduce airway inflammation. This medication reduces or even eliminates asthma symptoms. Most patients are given inhaled corticosteroids for long-term use.

Inhaled medications have a special inhaler that meters the dose. The inhaler may have a spacer that holds the burst of medication until it is inhaled. A home nebulizer, also known as a breathing machine, may be used to deliver asthma medications at home. The nebulizer changes medication from liquid form to a mist.

Quick relief medications include short-acting, inhaled beta2 agonists and anticholinergics. Long-acting medications include leukotriene modifiers, mast cell stabilizers, inhaled and oral corticosteroids, long-acting beta2 agonists, and methylxanthines.

SHORT-ACTING BETA-2 AGONISTS These drugs, which are bronchodilators, open the airways by relaxing the muscles around the airways that have tightened (bronchospasm).

Anticholinergics: Anticholinergics are medications that open the airways by relaxing the muscle bands that tighten around the airways. They also suppress mucus production.

Mast Cell Stabilizers: They are available only in inhaled form. Mast cell stabilizers, such as cromolyn and nedocromil, prevent asthma symptoms. These anti-inflammatory drugs are often given to children as the initial treatment to prevent asthmatic attacks over the long term.

Methylxanthines: Theophylline is the chief methylxanthine drug. It may exert some anti-inflammatory effect, and is especially helpful in controlling nighttime symptoms of asthma.

Other Drugs: Some inhalers contain a combination of two different medications that can be delivered together to shorten treatment times and decrease the number of inhalers that need to be purchased.