Asthma Medications

There are many different kinds of medications prescribed for children with asthma. Here are the most common types.

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  • Quick-Relief or Rescue Medications

      There are three types of Quick-Relief Medications.

      1. Short-Acting Inhaled Bronchodilators

      These medications relax the muscles surrounding the airways to open the airways and help breathing. They work very quickly but only for a short amount of time (about three to six hours).

      These are the medications that will save your child's life if he is having an asthma attack. Your child should have this medication, along with a spacer, available to him at all times. Whether he carries them with him or it is stored with the school nurse, it is important he has access in case of emergency.

      Inhaled bronchodilators have many different names. No matter what brand name, there will be the words "albuterol" on the canister. To help you remember that this is the medication that your child needs to have with him, remember "ALbuterol, ALways have it with you."

      Examples of Short-Acting Inhaled Bronchodilators

      - ProAir® (albuterol)
      - Proventil® (albuterol)
      - Ventolin® (albuterol)
      - Xopenex® (levoalbuterol)

      These can be given with a nebulizer or with an inhaler. All medications that are inhalers need to be taken with a spacer. If your child isn't using a spacer, he is only getting about 35 percent of the medicine to his airway (the rest is going in his mouth).

      More Information

      - Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI) with mask and spacer (En Español)
      - MDI with mouthpiece and spacer (En Español)
      - Home Aerosol Treatments (En Español)


      2. Anti-Cholinergics

      Anti-cholinergics are given with short-acting inhaled bronchodilators for severe asthma attacks. These medications also relax the muscles surrounding the airways to open the airways and help breathing.

      Examples of Anti-Cholinergics

      - Atrovent® (ipratropium)
      - Combivent® (albuterol & ipratropium)

      3. Oral Corticosteroids

      Oral corticosteroids are used for asthma attacks that are not relieved by short-acting inhaled bronchodilators. These medications work to decrease the swelling in the airway.

      These medications are either liquid or pills and are taken by mouth. Your child should continue taking his controller medications even if he is prescribed oral steroids.

      Examples of Oral Corticosteroids

      - Prednisone
      - Methylprednisolone
      - Prelone® (prednisolone) Syrup
      - Orapred® (prednisolone) Syrup

  • Controller Medications

      Controller medications are daily medications that prevent and reduce the swelling on the inside of the airway, which also prevents asthma attacks or flare ups. They do not work quickly, but they do work over a long period of time.

      Using controller medications to prevent asthma attacks is like using sunscreen to prevent sunburns.

      There are three types of controller medications. 

      1. Inhaled Corticosteroids

      Inhaled corticosteroids are the controller medications that reduce and prevent airway inflammation or swelling. Used daily, inhaled corticosteroids treat the underlying part of asthma that you may not feel or see.

      Examples of Inhaled Corticosteroids

      - Asmanex®
      - Flovent®
      - Pulmicort®
      - QVAR®


      2. Combination Medications

      Combination medications contain both long-acting bronchodilator and inhaled corticosteroid components. These medications prevent and decrease swelling of the airway and relax the muscles that surround the airway for up to 12 hours.

      Examples of Combination Medications

      - Advair®
      - Symbicort®
      - Dulera®

      All medications that are inhalers need to be taken with a spacer. If your child isn't using a spacer, he is only getting about 35 percent  of the medicine to his airway (the rest is going in his mouth).

      More Information

      Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI) with mask and spacer (En Español)
      MDI with mouthpiece and spacer (En Español)
      Home Aerosol Treatments (En Español)


      3. Leukotriene Modifiers

      These medications block the effects of leukotrienes, which are molecules in the immune system that can cause asthma symptoms. Leukotriene modifiers can help prevent symptoms for up to 24 hours.

      Examples of Leukotriene Modifiers

      - Singulair® (montelukast)
      - Accolate® (zafirlukast)
      - Zyflo CR® (zileutin)

      In rare cases, Singulair® (montelukast) has been linked to psychological reactions, such as agitation, aggression, hallucinations, depression and suicidal thinking. See your doctor right away if you or your child has any unusual reactions.

  • Medications for Asthma Triggered by Allergies

      Asthma and allergies often go hand-in-hand. Sometimes if your child’s allergies can be controlled, his asthma can also be controlled.

      There are five types of medications for asthma triggered by allergies.

      1. Steroid Nasal Sprays

      Steroid nasal sprays are used to prevent the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation, or swelling. They are also used to treat nasal symptoms, like congestion, sneezing and runny nose cause by seasonal and year-round allergies.

      It is important to use saline nose spray prior to using steroid nasal sprays. This helps remove mucus that could prevent the medicine from getting where it needs to go. Saline nose spray is available at the grocery or drug store without a prescription.

      To use saline nose spray:

      - Spray both sides of the nose with several squirts of saline nose spray.

      - Blow nose very well and repeat saline nose spray if needed.

      - When nose is clean, use steroid nasal spray as prescribed.

      Examples of Steroid Nasal Sprays

      - Flonase® (fluticasone propionate)
      - Nasarel® (flunisolide)
      - Nasonex®

       

      2. Antihistamines

      Antihistamines are used to reduce or block histamines, the chemicals that cause allergy symptoms.

      Antihistamines are available both by prescription and over the counter, depending on what is recommended by your child’s doctor.

      Some antihistamines can make you tired, while others generally do not.

      Examples of Antihistamines

      - Allegra®
      - Atarax® (hydroxyzine)
      - Benadryl®
      - Clarinex®
      - Zyrtec®

       

      3. Epinephrine Autoinjector

      Epinephrine autoinjectors are used to treat anaphylaxis , a serious allergic reaction. Epinephrine enters to bloodstream and works quickly against serious allergy symptoms.

      For example, it decreases swelling and raises blood pressure. It is given as an injection.

      If your child has been diagnosed with severe allergies to insect bites/stings, foods or medications, he should have an epinephrine autoinjector with him at all times.

      More Information
      Epinepherine Teaching Sheet (En Español)

      Examples of Epinephrine Autoinjectors

      EpiPen®
      Twinject®
      Auvi-Q®

       

      4. Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)

      Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, may be an option if avoiding allergic triggers doesn’t help control your child’s asthma.

      After your child’s provider determines what your child is allergic to through allergy testing, your child will get a series of injections with small doses of those allergens. Generally, these injections are once a week for a few months, and then once a month for three to five years. Over time, your child should become less allergic.

      5. Xolair® (Omalizumab)

      This medication can be used to treat asthma triggered by airborne allergens. If your child has allergies, his immune system makes allergy-causing antibodies that attack things that generally cause no harm, like pollen, dust mites and pet dander. Xolair blocks these antibodies, reducing the immune system’s reaction that causes allergy and asthma symptoms.

      Xolair is given by injection every two to four weeks. It isn’t generally recommended for children under 12. In rare cases, Xolair has triggered a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

      Anyone who takes Xolair should be monitored closely by a healthcare professional after getting an injection in case of severe reaction. 

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