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Asthma

Medications To Relieve An Asthma Attack

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 17:11

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Asthma medications that relieve the muscle spasms responsible for narrowing of the airways are called reliever medicines. The medications that best accomplish this are the bronchodilators. ("Bronchodilate" means to open up the airway, and that's exactly what these medications do.)

Points to keep in mind concerning the bronchodilator drugs include:

  • They relax the airway spasms to provide immediate relief.
  • Bronchodilators are used before exercise or before exposure to triggers such as cold air.
  • They are to be kept with you at all times.
  • You should contact your doctor if you are not getting immediate relief from your symptoms.
  • Bronchodilators should not be used every day unless prescribed by your doctor.

A number of different inhaled drugs are available that relieve asthma symptoms. They include:

Need To Know

Bronchodilators are commonly used medications that immediately relax the muscle of airways that are in spasm during an asthma episode and generally provide prompt relief. Side effects can include:

  • Tremors
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness

When taken as directed by your doctor, these reliever medications do not cause long-term side effects.

Short-Acting Beta2-Bronchodilators

This group of inhaled short-acting reliever drugs includes:

  • Brethaire; Bricanyl (terbutaline)
  • Maxair (pirbuterol)
  • Tornalate (bitolterol)
  • Ventolin; Proventil (albuterol in the U.S.; salbutamol in the U.K. and Canada)

Need To Know

If you need to use these medications too frequently, or they don't appear to be as effective as they used to be, this can be a signal that your asthma is not being controlled effectively and may be an early warning signal of an asthma episode. These drugs are not recommended for long-term daily treatment of asthma. Always carry a short-acting beta2-bronchodilator for fast relief during an asthma episode.

Anticholinergic Bronchodilators

One example of an anticholinergic bronchodilator is Atrovent (ipratropium).

  • It relaxes airway muscle by blocking the nerves that cause constriction of the airways.
  • It is sometimes used in combination with a short-acting beta2-bronchodilator.
  • It should be used with caution if you have glaucoma. Accidental spraying of the mist in the eyes can worsen the eye problem.
  • It is not fast-acting enough to be used as "front-line" reliever medicines during an asthma attack.
  • Common side effects include dry mouth, dry throat, dry nose, and headache.

Asthma