Asthma medications can save your life -- and let you live an active life in spite of your asthma. There are two basic types of drugs used in asthma treatment:
Steroids and Other Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Anti-inflammatory drugs, particularly inhaled steroids, are the most important treatment for most people with asthma. These lifesaving medications prevent asthma attacks and work by reducing swelling and mucus production in the airways. As a result, the airways are less sensitive and less likely to react to asthma triggers and cause asthma symptoms.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's article on Asthma, Steroids, and Other Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.
Bronchodilators and Asthma
Bronchodilators relieve the symptoms of asthma by relaxing the muscles that can tighten around the airways. This helps to open up the airways.
Short-acting bronchodilator inhalers are often referred to as rescue inhalers and are used to quickly relieve the cough, wheeze, chest tightness, and shortness of breath caused by asthma. They may also be used prior to exercise for people with exercise-induced asthma. These should not be used daily in the routine treatment of asthma. If you need to use a short-acting bronchodilator as a rescue inhaler more than twice a week, then your asthma is not optimally controlled. Ask your doctor about improving your asthma controller medication.
Long-acting bronchodilators are sometimes used in combination with inhaled steroids for control of asthma symptoms or when someone has ongoing asthma symptoms despite treatment with a daily inhaled steroid. Long-acting bronchodilators are never used alone as long-term therapy for asthma.
For in-depth information, see WebMD's article on Bronchodilators: Airway Openers.