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Types of Asthma Medications

There are two types of asthma medications: long-term controllers and quick-relievers. It is important to understand the difference between the two medicines and how they will help relieve asthma symptoms. 

Long-Term Control

Long-term control medications are taken daily on a long-term basis to achieve and maintain control of persistent asthma. Some individuals may need to take this type of medication daily for optimal results. There are several forms of long-term control medications for asthma, including:

Inhaled corticosteroids prevent and reduce airway swelling. These medications work by preventing certain cells in the lungs and airways from releasing substances that cause asthma symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroids can also reduce mucus in the lungs and are the most effective long-term control medications available. 

Inhaled long-acting beta agonists are taken on a daily basis to relax the muscles lining the airway that carry air to the lungs. These medications should be taken only in combination with a corticosteroid to treat asthma. 

Leukotriene modifiers are medications that decrease inflammation by preventing the action of leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals the body releases after coming in contact with an allergen. This medication can reduce swelling inside the airways and relax smooth muscles. 

Immunotherapy can reduce asthma symptoms if the individual’s asthma symptoms are caused by allergies. Allergen-specific immunotherapy involves administering injections of increasing amounts of the allergen(s). This can reduce asthma symptoms and the risk of severe asthma attacks after future exposure to the allergen.


Quick-relief medications can help relieve asthma symptoms when they occur. These medications act fast to relax tight muscles around the airways, allowing them to open and allow air to flow through them. Individuals should take quick-relief medications when they are having asthma symptoms. 

Short-acting beta agonists relax the muscles lining the airways within 5 minutes. This helps increase airflow and makes it easier to breathe. They relieve asthma symptoms for 3 to 6 hours.

Anticholinergics work by relaxing the airways and preventing them from narrowing. This makes it easier to breathe and may protect the airways from spasms that can suddenly cause the airway to narrow. Anticholinergics may also reduce mucus production.

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