5 Things You Need to Know About Quick Relief Asthma Medication

Everyone with asthma should have a rescue or quick-relief inhaler (or access to a nebulizer) at all times. We never know when we are going to come in contact with a trigger and have unexpected symptoms. Below are the five things you need to know about quick relief asthma medication.

They act quickly and you can feel them working

Quick relief asthma medication, as the name states, works quickly by releasing the muscles that tighten around the airways during an asthma episode. These medications typically “relieve the squeeze,” within 15 minutes or so.1 You can feel them working - which is such a relief when you’re having symptoms - and common side effects are feeling jittery and increased heart rate. Side effects will subside in 20 minutes or so, and symptoms normally go away within 30 minutes.

Quick relief asthma medication can be used to avoid asthma episodes

If you know you are going to come in contact with a trigger, such as going outside in the cold air or humidity, you can take your quick-relief medication 15 - 30 minutes beforehand. This will open your airways and help avoid the muscles from tightening. Pre-medicating is commonly recommended if you have asthma symptoms during exercise. Talk to your doctor if you want to give this a try.

The name includes the medication name and the delivery device

All quick-relief medications are some form of albuterol. If the medication comes in the form of an aerosol, it contains both medicine and propellant, which sprays out at about 50+ miles per hour. This device/inhaler is called a metered-dose inhaler (MDI), and is also called an HFA, which stands for Hydrofluoroalkane, which is the type of propellant used. For instance, Ventolin HFA.

New delivery devices have been added in the last few years. For instance, ProAir Respiclick. ProAir is the name of the medication, and Respiclick is the name of the device. This is a dry powdered inhaler (DPI) that does not include propellant. The newest devices include a built-in sensor that is used with an app to track inhaler use.

Albuterol also comes in liquid form to use in a nebulizer. Nebulizing quick-relief medication which is the cheapest and easiest to use.

Quick relief medications include ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA, Xopenex HFA, and nebulized albuterol and DuoNeb.

They do not take the place of daily medication

As I mentioned earlier, quick-relief medications relax the muscles around the airways.1 They are short-acting and only last for about four hours. Daily medication, or controller medications, reduce the swelling inside the airway. This swelling is the main cause of asthma and needs to be addressed for good asthma control. Taking a controller medication should reduce the need to take your quick-relief medication.

You can overuse quick relief asthma medication, so follow the rules of two

The Rules of Two, developed by Baylor, is an easy way to determine if you are relying on your quick-relief medication more than you should:2

  • If you take your quick-relief medicine more than 2x a week (not including pre-medicating before exercising)
  • You wake up at night more than 2x a month
  • You refill your quick-relief inhaler more than 2x a year

Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before changing your dose.

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