Treatment of Asthma in Adults
Although its not easy to eliminate them altogether, its important to try to avoid anything you suspect might make your asthma worse, or bring on an attack. But theres also a range of treatments which may help keep your symptoms in check. And your peak flow should be measured regularly. Your doctor may do this for you, but you may also be able to do it yourself.
There is a choice of devices to help control asthma - you may find you like one type more than another. The most commonly used one is an inhaler - or puffer - to breathe in a drug which should help with your asthma. But whatever device you use, it is important that your doctor or nurse checks that you are using it effectively.
There are two main types of medication that can be delivered via your inhaler - a reliever and a preventer.
A reliever helps to open up your airways quite quickly - so this type is for when you are having an asthma attack and already feeling the onset of symptoms. Common reliever drugs include salbutamol (Ventolin), terbutaline and ipratropium.
Preventer drugs, which can be used together with relievers, are for suppressing the symptoms on a day-to-day basis. Most preventers are inhaled steroids that act to reduce the inflammation in your airways. You will probably be prescribed a preventer only if you regularly have to use a reliever twice a day or more.
Unlike relievers, preventers aren’t meant to have an immediate effect and must be used as prescribed, whether or not you have any symptoms.
Common preventer drugs include beclomethasone, budesonide and fluticasone. In the inhaled form, steroids have much fewer side-effects than steroids in tablet form.
If your asthma is quite severe or unpredictable, you may be put on a course of steroids in tablet form. These work in the same way as inhaled preventers, by reducing inflammation.
Your doctor may also give you tablets called leukotriene antagonists - a relatively new treatment that is mostly used together with relievers and preventers. Other useful medicines include theophyllines (tablets) and sodium cromoglygate (inhaler).
If your asthma is severe, you may be put on a nebuliser. This is a machine that makes a mist of water and medication that you breathe in. The medication is usually relievers, but may sometimes be preventers.
The main advantage of a nebuliser is that it can deliver more of the drug exactly where its needed than a conventional inhaler. This is particularly critical if you have a very serious attack of asthma and need reliever delivered quickly into your lungs.
They are also sometimes used to treat young children, who may have problems using an inhaler or taking tablets.
Spacers offer an alternative for people who find an inhaler awkward to use. They’re also good for getting more of the drug into the lungs.
A spacer is a long tube which clips on to the inhaler. At the other end the tube is a mouthpiece or mask which you breathe into.
Managing your asthma
If you suffer from asthma - or you have a child who does – it’s worth remembering that it is something you can control yourself to a large degree.
Talk to your doctor and find other information to help you understand what might be causing the asthma, and how to avoid coming into contact with those particular triggers.
Plan ahead - always be prepared, so you’re ready to help yourself when you do feel the symptoms coming on. This should help you cut down your risk of more serious attacks, and of needing to go to hospital.