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Overview

If you have asthma, you don’t have to suffer with your symptoms or let it affect your quality of life. There are many effective asthma medications available. Your allergist can customize a treatment plan that works for you. Partner with an allergist and find expert care to relieve your symptoms and live the life you want.

Quick-Relief and Long-Term Asthma Medications

Most people with asthma need two kinds of medications: quick-relief and long-term control. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) can also be helpful.

Quick-relief medications are taken at the first sign of asthma symptoms for immediate relief. They include:

  • Short-acting inhaled beta2-agonists (inhalers)
  • Anticholinergics

Both are bronchodilators, which means they expand the passageways into the lungs. This allows more air in and out of the lungs and improves breathing. They also help to clear mucus from the lungs by enabling the mucus to move more freely and get coughed out more easily. If you have exercise-induced asthma, your allergist may recommend using a bronchodilator before exercising.

Even though quick-relief medications can stop asthma symptoms, they do not control the cause of the symptoms: airway inflammation. Consider the rule of twos: If you find that you need your quick-relief medication to treat asthma symptoms more than twice a week, or you wake up at night with asthma symptoms two or more nights a month, then your asthma is not well-controlled. If you refill your quick relief medication more than two times per year, that is another sign your asthma isn’t well-controlled.

Long-term control medications are taken every day to prevent symptoms and asthma attacks.

They include:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids which include fluticasone, budesonide,  mometasone, beclomethasone and ciclesonide. Inhaled corticosteroids are safe, well-tolerated and among the most effective medications for treating asthma.
  • Antileukotrienes or leukotriene modifiers which include montelukast sodium, zafirlukast, and zileuton
  • Long-acting inhaled beta2-agonists (never taken alone, but can be extremely useful when combined with an inhaled corticosteroid). These include albuterol and levalbuterol. 

These medications are taken every day, even if you do not have symptoms. The most effective long-term control medications reduce inflammation in the airways and help improve asthma symptoms.

Speak with your allergist about what type of inhaler would work best for you, when you should use it, how to use it and how to track how you’re feeling. Your allergist will develop a personal treatment plan that works for you and requires the least amount of medication possible.

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Biologics

Traditional asthma treatments may not lead to complete control of symptoms if your asthma is severe. Biologic therapies are at the cutting edge of treatment because they have the potential to be personalized – to be formulated to treat specific cells and/or antibodies which lead to allergic inflammation – the inflammation that makes it so hard for some people to breathe. Biologic drugs have been shown to decrease the rate of asthma flare-ups and improve your quality of life.

There are currently five biologic drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in treating severe uncontrolled asthma: reslizumab, mepolizumab, omalizumab, benralizumab, and dupilumab.

Your allergist will do blood tests to determine which biologic would be the most effective for your severe uncontrolled asthma. Depending on the biologic recommended, you may receive it as an IV or under the skin injection every two to eight weeks. One of the biologics can be taken by injection at home.

Your allergist is the best person to talk to about biologics. They will be able to determine which treatment is right for you and work with you to make sure the treatment is effective.

Immunotherapy

Two types of immunotherapy are available: allergy shots and sublingual (under the tongue) tablets. If your asthma is triggered by an allergy, speak with your allergist and consider immunotherapy.

Allergy shots: Shots are very effective in relieving allergy symptoms. While shots cannot cure your allergies, they can alter your immune system to make your symptoms less severe. Over time, the shots help the body build up a tolerance to the allergen (pollens, dust mite, pets, mold).

Sublingual tablets: These tablets are held under the tongue until they dissolve. This treatment method continues to be a promising therapy for specific allergies.  Currently, only house dust mites and certain grass and ragweed pollens are treatable with tablets, and they should not be used if you have severe or uncontrolled asthma. Your allergist will help you determine if this treatment method is right for you.

Have questions? Ask Your Allergist.

You may have concerns about your asthma medications because of price or possible side effects. If you have any of these or other concerns, ask your allergist.

Your allergist will work with you to find the right medication or combination to manage your asthma and will adjust the dosage based on your symptoms and how well-controlled your asthma is. The goal is to have you feeling your best with the least amount of medication. Your allergist will teach you how to use your medications as part of your treatment plan. If possible, your allergist will also help you save money by prescribing a non-brand name medication or by adjusting your treatment plan. It’s important to learn what your choices are and what is going to work for you.

Although there is not yet a cure for asthma, the symptoms are controllable. Allergists are specially trained to help you manage chronic allergies and asthma, so you can live the life you want. Treatment can allow a normal active lifestyle. It’s time to take control of your asthma and start enjoying life again! If you don’t already have one it’s time to find an allergist.