Medicines used in the treatment of asthma

Most people will need medicines to help treat their asthma, even when they don’t have symptoms. One or more medicines may be prescribed depending on the frequency and severity of your asthma symptoms, and other factors such as your age, asthma triggers, and other medicines you may be taking.

Asthma medicines mainly come in the form of inhalers (also known as puffers), but some are available as a nebuliser solution or oral tablet. In medical emergencies and hospital settings, some asthma medicines may be injected directly into a vein.

Short-term asthma medicines

Reliever medicines are used when you develop asthma symptoms or start having an asthma attack. These medicines provide quick relief of symptoms and may be the only treatment needed for some people with mild asthma symptoms or exercise-induced asthma.

Long-term asthma medicines

Some medicines need to be taken daily, on an ongoing basis, to control persistent asthma symptoms and to help prevent asthma attacks. If you have severe asthma symptoms, or have had asthma for a long time, you may be prescribed a:

With the exception of people who can maintain good asthma control using a reliever medicine only, one or more of these long-term asthma medicines may be used in conjunction with a reliever medicine to manage your asthma symptoms.

Asthma Action Plan

Ask your doctor for a written Asthma Action Plan to help you manage your symptoms and recognise worsening asthma.

Your Asthma Action Plan records how to use your medicines when your asthma is under control (good asthma control), and what to do if you have an asthma attack.

Make sure that your written Asthma Action Plan is updated to reflect any changes made to your treatment.

Talk to your health professional

Tell your doctor, pharmacist or asthma nurse if you have problems or concerns with any of your medicines, including side effects. They can advise about your treatment options and suggest alternatives if needed.

Your doctor or pharmacist can also show you how to use your asthma medicines correctly and check your inhaler technique.

It is also important to tell your health professional about all the medicines you are taking — including prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines — to help you avoid problems with your medicines, such as interactions. A medicines list can be a useful way to keep information about your medicines together.

Phone for medicines information

Call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for information about your prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (including herbal, 'natural', vitamins and mineral supplements) from a pharmacist. Your call will be answered by healthdirect Australia (except Queensland and Victoria).

Call from anywhere in Australia, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm AEST (excluding NSW public holidays).

Find out more

References
  1. Asthma Australia (2013). Exercise-induced asthma. [online] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  2. Asthma Australia (2013). Taking control of your asthma. [online] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011). Asthma in Australia 2011: with a focus chapter on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Cat. no. ACM 22.). [online] Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  4. Department of Health and Ageing & National Asthma Council Australia (2004). Asthma and lung function tests: an information paper for health professionals. [full text] Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  5. Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) (2011). Guidelines and reports. [full text] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  6. Lazarus S. C. (2010). Clinical practice: emergency treatment of asthma. New England Journal of Medicine 2010;363:755–64. [PubMed] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  7. National Asthma Council Australia (2014). Spirometry resources. [online] Melbourne: National Asthma Council Australia. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  8. National Asthma Council Australia (2014). Peak flow chart. [online] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  9. National Asthma Council Australia (2014). Asthma management handbook 2014. [online] Melbourne: National Asthma Council Australia. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  10. National Health Service (2010). Asthma in children. [online] London: National Health Service (NHS). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  11. National Health Service (2010). Diagnosing asthma. [online] London: National Health Service (NHS). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  12. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2011). Omalizumab for severe persistent allergic asthma. [online] London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  13. Rossi, S. Ed. (2014). Australian Medicines Handbook. [online] Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  14. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (2013). Fact sheet: asthma. [online] Melbourne: Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  15. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (2013). Fact sheet: asthma — use of spacers. [online] Melbourne: Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  16. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (2013). Fact sheet: bronchiolitis. [online] Melbourne: Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  17. Sweetman S, ed. Martindale: The complete drug reference. [online] Thomson Micromedex, London: Pharmaceutical Press. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  18. The Asthma Foundation of NSW (2006). Healthy pregnancy for women with asthma: an information paper for health professionals. [full text] Sydney: The Asthma Foundation of NSW. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  19. Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd. (2014). Therapeutic guidelines complete 2014: asthma (eTG42). [online] (Accessed 10 April 2014).

The relevant consumer medicine information (CMI) and product information (PI) have been consulted for every medicine discussed.

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