People with asthma have what is called a chronic (say:
-nik) problem, or a problem that is always there, even when they
feel OK. Everyday stuff such as exercise,
can cause an asthma flare-up.
, the airways in the lungs get swollen (puffy). These narrowed
airways (breathing tubes) also can get clogged with mucus. And even
the muscles around the airways tighten up. All of this makes it
tough to breathe.
But medicine can help. There are two different kinds of
medicines for treating asthma.
Rescue medications can loosen the muscles around the airways.
That opens up the airways and makes it easier to breathe. Rescue
medicines are usually inhaled right into the lungs, where they stop
wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath quickly. In other
words, they rescue a person who's having trouble breathing!
These medicines work over a long period of time by keeping the
airways from getting swollen in the first place. They may be
inhaled or taken as a pill or liquid.
Rescue medications are important during a flare-up because they
help someone breathe more easily right away. That means anyone who
has asthma and has been prescribed rescue medications should always
have them along - at school, on the basketball court, at the mall,
and even on vacation.
But rescue medications don't do anything to help stop an
asthma flare-up before it happens. That's where controller
medications come in. These medicines may not seem to be doing
anything. In fact, a person with asthma might not feel anything at
all when he or she takes them. But these medicines are quietly
doing important work to control asthma every day.
Some people with mild asthma use only rescue medications when
they have flare-ups. Others who have more severe asthma must take
rescue medication when they have breathing problems
they need to take controller medications every day. If you have
asthma, your doctor will decide which type of medication you need
and how often you need to take it.
Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: May 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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