Treatment and Management

Each person's asthma treatment may look a little different. However, some practices are recommended for most, of not all of asthmatics, including avoiding triggers, using prescribed medications, and monitoring changes to ensure you're controlling your asthma.

Signs that your asthma is under control are:1

  1. You experience daytime symptoms two times a week or less
  2. Asthma does not wake you up or cause difficulty with sleeping
  3. You do not use your short-acting beta agonist (SABA) more than twice a week
  4. Your activities are not limited due to asthma complications

Four fundamental steps for achieving these goals are:2

  1. Using long-term control medications
  2. Avoiding asthma triggers
  3. Treating co-existing medical conditions
  4. Monitoring changes in your symptoms or lung function

When symptoms flare up, a written Asthma Action Plan can help you begin treatment at home and figure out when to get additional medical help.

What asthma medications are used for long-term asthma control?

For people with persistent asthma, using asthma control medications daily is key to achieving the treatment goals. Long-term control medications include inhaled corticosteroids, inhaled long-acting beta agonists, LAMAs, leukotriene modifiers, theophylline, omalizumab, and cromolyn.2

The most frequently used asthma control medications reduce inflammation in your airways.2 When the airways are less inflamed, they become less sensitive (“hyperresponsive”). This reduces your risk of having an asthma attack.2

How can I avoid asthma triggers?

Knowing what triggers your asthma is a necessary first step. You and your provider can work together to identify your triggers. Common triggers include pet dander, dust mites, cockroaches, pollen, mold, and viruses. Exercise, cold air, and pollution can also trigger symptoms.

It can be helpful to think about which triggers you are regularly exposed to and when your symptoms are worst. Allergy testing can confirm specific allergies. This can help you to focus on the most important things to avoid. Certain triggers are unavoidable, but you can be prepared for times when additional treatments may be needed.2

How do I monitor changes in my asthma?

You can monitor your asthma based on symptoms or using a peak flow meter. Both methods can work well.2 The best choice depends on your preferences and type of asthma.

Symptom-based monitoring may be better for children. Peak flow monitoring may be better for people with severe asthma, a history of sudden attacks, or difficulty noticing worsening symptoms. Monitoring your asthma helps you to notice the start of an asthma attack early. By starting treatment right away, you may be able to avoid having a severe asthma attack.

Treatment for asthma attacks

Follow your written Asthma Action Plan in the event of an asthma flare-up. Your plan should describe who and when to call based on your peak expiratory flow measurements and the type of symptoms you are having. In general, treatment begins at home.2 You will be instructed on how to take your rescue inhaler. The next steps depend on how your symptoms respond to your rescue medication.

What alternative therapies are used for asthma treatment?

In general, there have been very few studies of complementary and alternative therapies for asthma. A handful of studies have shown some positive results using relaxation techniques, breathing techniques and yoga.2,3 However, studies of each approach were done so differently that it is hard to draw a firm conclusion about any of them.

Herbal remedies and homeopathy have not been studied well enough to know whether they work. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute does not recommend acupuncture to treat asthma.2 Their position is based on several randomized, clinical trials that showed acupuncture was not effective.

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Written by: Sarah O'Brien | Last Reviewed: September 2020.