Medicine and Steroid Use :: Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

Asthma Medicine and Steroid Use

Asthma Medicines

There are two types of medicines for treating asthma. They are called rescue (quick-relief) medicines and controller medicines.

Rescue medicines

Everyone with asthma needs a rescue medicine. Use it at the first signs of an asthma flare-up.
A rescue medicine:

  • May be an inhaler or a nebulizer (aerosol)

  • Works very quickly to make it easier for your child to breathe, but it lasts for a short time

  • Helps to open airways right away

  • Should not be needed more than 2 times per week

  • May not work for a flare-up in patients who use it more than 2 times per week

  • May be used 15 to 20 minutes before exercising or playing

Controller medicines

Most people with asthma also need one or more controller medicines. A controller medicine:

  • Helps prevent asthma symptoms and flare-ups

  • Is taken every day even if feeling well

  • Works to reduce the swelling and the mucus in the airways

  • Does NOT help during an asthma flare-up

Tips

  • Use a rescue medicine as directed by the doctor.

  • Keep your rescue inhaler and spacer with you at all times.Take your controller medicine every day as directed by your doctor, even when you feel fine.

  • See the specific asthma medicine sheets. It will tell you how and when to take your asthma medicine, possible side effects, and important things to remember. Ask your nurse or respiratory therapist if you did not receive these.

  • Refill your controller medicine every 1 or 2 months. Ask your pharmacist how often if you are not sure.

  • Use your Asthma Action Plan. It will tell you when and how to take each medicine.Use an asthma diary to keep track of symptoms and how often you use your rescue medicine.

  • Sit down with your doctor to develop an Asthma Action Plan. It will tell you when and how to take each medicine.

  • Tell your teacher, coach and school nurse that you have asthma.

Steroids and Asthma

During an asthma flare-up, the airways swell and fill with mucus. Steroids are medicines used to prevent or treat this swelling. The steroids used to treat asthma are NOT the same steroids that some people take to build muscles.

There are two kinds of steroids used to treat asthma:

  1. Inhaled steroids are sprays or mists that are breathed into the lungs.

  2. Oral steroids are a tablet or liquid taken by mouth.

Inhaled steroid medicines

  • Are used every day, even when feeling well

  • Prevent asthma symptoms and flare-ups

  • Reduce swelling in the airways

  • Help to reduce coughing and wheezing

  • Go straight into the airways. This means fewer side effects

  • Be sure your child rinses his mouth after every use.

Steroids by mouth

  • Are powerful medicines used to treat serious asthma flare-ups

  • Are taken only for a few days

  • May cause a lot of side effects

Note: The steroids used to treat asthma are NOT the same steroids that some people take to build muscles.

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