Mention asthma treatments, and most people immediately think of the little puffers (aerosol inhalers) which can be carried round in the socket. In fact, pocket-sized puffers are still the most common way of taking asthma treatments. However, the contents of the inhalers and the way in which they are used has changed.
Until ten years ago, people with asthma relied solely on reliever medicines such as .albutamol (Ventolin) in order to keep their symptoms under control. Now anyone who needs to use a reliever medicine more than once a day is advised to use a preventive treatment as well. If the preventive treatment proves effective, the symptoms of asthma may be controlled so effectively that the reliever treatment is hardly needed.
Whenever possible, asthma medications are prescribed so that they can be inhaled. This allows the minimum possible dose of the drug to be used because the active ingredient is drawn directly into the airways, just where it is needed.
If a drug is swallowed, a great deal of it is absorbed in other parts of the body, or it is broken down in the liver. This means that doses need to be higher, with a greater risk of side effects.
Goals of treatment
The goals of asthma treatment are to enable the person with asthma to:
- Lead a full, active life.
- Take part in sporting activity (although cross-country running in the winter may not be an option).
- Lose no time from school or work.
- Be free of night-time symptoms.
- Keep lung function as normal as possible
It is important to be clear about the difference between preventer and reliever medicines because they work in completely different ways.