Asthma Treatment Plans

Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system that restricts airflow and impairs breathing. Symptoms of asthma include:

  • coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest
  • wheezing.

These symptoms are caused by both constriction and inflammation of the airways. Constriction and inflammation reduce the size of the space in the airway and thus, the amount of air that is able to pass through from the nose and mouth to the lungs.

Medications for Asthma Treatment

Several types of medications can be prescribed to prevent, reduce and treat asthma symptoms. Most people with asthma use both a long-term daily medication to manage and prevent symptoms, and a short-term, quick-relief medication for acute symptoms.

Long-term medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are taken on a daily basis to control the airway inflammation associated with asthma. Long-term bronchodilators may also be used in conjunction with corticosteroids in more severe cases. They work over time and are not meant to treat acute symptoms. Long-term medications are important, however, for preventing long-term injury to the lungs resulting from chronic inflammation.

Short-acting medications, usually beta-2 agonists or bronchodilators, are taken at the onset of acute symptoms. They work to reduce airway constriction and relax the bronchioles. They do not reduce underlying inflammation, however. Most often, short-term medications are used in combination with corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation in the airway.

Most asthma medications are breathed in with an inhaler or nebulizer. Inhalers deliver medication by spraying a dose of medication (metered dose inhalers) or by delivering medicine in powder form that must be inhaled (dry powder inhalers). Nebulizers are machines that vaporize asthma medications to be inhaled over the course of several minutes.

People with allergic asthma may also use medications that reduce the effect of allergens. This helps to keep the allergens from contributing to asthma symptoms.

Severe Asthma Attacks

Sudden asthma symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization can be treated in a number of ways. Inhaled bronchodilators or intravenous corticosteroids may be administered to reduce inflammation and airway constriction. Oxygen is often administered, and in very severe cases, may be given via mechanical ventilation. Tests given upon arrival at the hospital (such as a chest x-ray) will determine the appropriate course of treatment in these cases.

Preventing and Reducing Asthma Symptoms

Treatment of asthma also includes preventing symptoms when possible. Good control of asthma may reduce the need for short-term, fast-acting medications for acute symptoms. Ways to minimize the occurrence of asthma symptoms include:

  • Avoiding Triggers: An important step in avoiding or reducing asthma symptoms is to avoid known triggers. Factors such as stress, exercise and environmental irritants can trigger asthma symptoms. Allergic asthma can be triggered by allergens such as dust and pollen. Limiting exposure to items that have proven to be triggers in the past can help prevent flare-ups.
  • Monitoring Symptoms: Regular monitoring of asthma symptoms is an important aspect of managing asthma. Using a peak flow meter to measure your lungs’ ability to push out air can provide a continuous picture of lung function. Observing even minor changes in peak flow can mean that asthma medications may need to be adjusted for optimum control and prevention of asthma symptoms.

It is still possible to lead a normal lifestyle with asthma. It is essential to be familiar with your symptoms and their causes, as well as your typical lung function. In most cases, adjustments can be made to control asthma without drastic changes to your life.

Creating an Asthma Treatment Plan

It is important to work with your doctor to develop a detailed treatment plan for managing asthma. This ensures that you know how to respond if your lung function changes, or if you begin to experience more severe symptoms. You will know when you can address these changes yourself, and when to contact your doctor. Finally, asthma treatment plans ensure proper use of all medicines your doctor prescribes for your asthma. A treatment plan will increase your awareness of your asthma, and help to involve you in the treatment process.

Resources

Kids’ Health (n.d.). What’s the difference between a nebulizer and an inhaler? Retrieved March 17, 2009, from the Kids’ Health Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/asthma/nebulizer_inhaler.html.

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Asthma: Treatments and drugs. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.

MyAsthmaCentral (n.d.). Quick-relief medications for adult asthma sufferers. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from the MyAsthmaCentral Web site: http://www.healthcentral.com/asthma/introduction-000004_9-145.html?ic=4031.

MyAsthmaCentral (n.d.). Quick-relief medications for adult asthma sufferers. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from the MyAsthmaCentral Web site: http://www.healthcentral.com/asthma/introduction-000004_8-145.html?ic=506019.

National Lung Heart and Blood Institute. (n.d.). How is asthma treated and controlled? Retrieved March 17, 2009, from the National Lung, Heart and Blood Institute Web site:

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Asthma/Asthma_Treatments.html.