Questions About Asthma Medicine

When you have questions about using your asthma medicines or need to help your child with their medicines, getting the right answers can make a big difference in controlling symptoms. Below are answers to some common questions about asthma medicines. Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions about these medicines.

Q. What is an Asthma Action Plan?

A. An Asthma Action Plan is a written plan for managing asthma. Each one is different for each person. Your healthcare provider creates the plan with you. It lays out how to treat your asthma on a daily basis, what to do when symptoms get worse, and how to manage things like exercise and illnesses like colds and flu. The plan changes as your asthma changes. Bring your plan to every appointment and review it with your healthcare provider. This review will help make sure that your asthma treatment and control are as up-to-date as possible.

Q. What are some signs that my medicine schedule may need to be adjusted?

A. You are using your quick-relief medicine for asthma symptoms more than twice a week. Or you are using them more often than your healthcare provider advised. Or you are waking up in the middle of the night with breathing troubles more than 2 times in a month. Contact your healthcare provider.

Q. What are some signs that my asthma may be out of control?

A. Your symptoms cause you to miss work or school. Or they keep you awake at night. Your provider may need to adjust your medicines or prescribe different medicines. Also refer to or review your Asthma Action Plan.

Q. Is it OK to use my quick-relief bronchodilator more often than prescribed?

A. No. Using this more often than prescribed for symptoms that get worse can delay correct treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider if this is happening. Also refer to or review your Asthma Action Plan right away.

Q. What's the difference between long-term control medicine and quick-relief medicine?

A. Long-term control medicine is usually taken every day to treat ongoing inflammation. This type of medicine treats the cause of asthma for better long-term control of symptoms. It doesn't relieve symptoms quickly. Some experts recommend taking the long-term controller medicines as needed. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if this regimen is right for you. Quick-relief medicine (also known as rescue or reliever medicine) is taken at the first sign of asthma symptoms to give you relief right away.

Q. Is it OK to stop my long-term control medicine if I don't have symptoms?

A. No. The fact that you don't have symptoms is a sign that your treatment is working the way it should. If you stop taking the medicine, your asthma is likely to get worse again. Some experts suggest that long-term controller medicines may work well on an as-needed basis. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if this is right for you.

Q. How can I tell if my child's quick-relief medicine is working?

A. Your child should begin breathing easier and feeling better within 5 to 10 minutes. A peak-flow meter can be helpful. This is a device that measures how fast your child can blow out air after breathing in as deeply as possible. If possible, check your child's peak flow before giving the medicine. Then check again 20 to 30 minutes later. The peak flow should improve by the second reading. If your child's symptoms don't improve as expected, get medical help right away. It's important to always use the correct method when taking your quick-relief medicine.

Q. What can I do if my child is having trouble using an inhaler?

A. An inhaler releases medicine in a mist, which is breathed into the lungs. This type of inhaler works well. But it can be tricky to use correctly. Ask your healthcare provider about using a mask and a spacer. These devices attach to the inhaler to make it easier to use. In some cases, your child can use a nebulizer device. During each visit with your child's healthcare provider, show the staff the method your child uses when taking their quick-relief medicine.

Q. Can I take an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine instead of my prescription?

A. No. Never take OTC medicine in place of prescription medicines. You might be able to use some OTC decongestants and antihistamines in addition to your prescribed medicine. But always check with your healthcare provider first. Some OTC products can be dangerous for people with asthma.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2023
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