Asthma Basics: What You Need to Know

Author: Michaela WachalAsthma Inhaler

One in 13 people has asthma, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Asthma is one of the most common and most costly diseases across the U.S.* Here is what you need to know about asthma.

Asthma Basics

Asthma is a chronic condition that causes a person’s airways narrow and swell, making it hard to breathe. Common symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Sometimes asthma is mild and more of a nuisance than a problem. In other cases, severe asthma can be a serious condition that leads to life-threatening asthma attacks.

Certain triggers and environments may cause an asthma attack. Exercise, allergies and other situations might make asthma worse. Asthma may flare up for people who regularly work in dusty areas, around chemical fumes, or with other substances that can irritate airways.

Understanding Asthma Medications

There is no cure for asthma but it can be treated and managed. Asthma treatment depends on the severity of a patient’s condition. Depending on the drug, asthma medications can be inhaled, injected or taken orally. People diagnosed with asthma typically have at least two kinds of medications, one for long-term use and one for quick relief. Some people also have allergy medicines to relieve their asthma.

As you learn more about asthma medications, you will often come across three key words: corticosteroids, bronchodilator, and beta agonists.

Corticosteroids: Steroid hormones that can be used to treat inflammation.

Bronchodilator: A type of drug that causes the bronchial airways to widen.

Beta agonist: A type of bronchodilator medication that relaxes airway muscles for easier breathing. They can be short-acting or long-acting.

Controller Medications

One of the main goals of asthma treatment is to gain long-term control. This typically involves preventative medications, also called controller medications. Preventative drugs are often designed to reduce airway inflammation, control symptoms and ultimately to prevent asthma attacks.

Rescue Medications

Rescue asthma medications, also called quick-relief medications, are used during an asthma attack when immediate relief is needed. In some cases, a doctor will recommend taking quick-relief medicine before exercise to prevent asthma attacks. This medicine offers a short-term solution to asthma symptoms.

Allergy Medications

Allergies trigger asthma attacks in some patients. If this is the case, allergy shots can provide relief. The goal of allergy shots is to reduce the body’s sensitivity to whatever is causing the allergic reaction. For example, the shots may desensitize a person to pollen if seasonal allergies are making his or her asthma worse.

Asthma Management Plan

To get the most benefit from asthma medications, it’s important to make a plan. Track symptoms and flare-ups, take medication regularly, know how to respond to an asthma attack and talk to your doctor or Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions pharmacist about your therapy management. Make sure you always have asthma medication available. If you’re starting to run out, refill your prescription right away.

Asthma Emergencies

Asthma doesn’t have to get in the way of everyday life. If you have an asthma management plan and you stick with it, you will be more prepared to respond to an asthma emergency. Severe asthma attacks can be life threatening. It’s important to know when to get emergency medical treatment. It’s generally considered an emergency if someone experiences shortness of breath or difficulty breathing that gets worse quickly. If someone has an asthma attack and rescue medications do not help, it’s best to see a doctor right away.

Emergency asthma treatment may be different for each case. For specific instructions about how to respond to an asthma emergency, talk to your doctor.

National Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month

Every year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) designates May to be National Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month. May is often the peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, which makes it a good time to talk about these conditions. Visit the AAFA website to learn more.

*Asthma facts taken from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.