Bronchial Asthma Treatment Options: Quick -relief and Long-term Control Medications

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Bronchial Asthma

Bronchial asthma is defined as chronic inflammation on the bronchial tubes. The inflammation of the respiratory airways causes the constriction (swelling and narrowing) of the bronchi which results in respiratory difficulties. Bronchial asthma symptoms include the following:

  • Respiratory difficulty (shortness of breath)
  • Coughing and/or wheezing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Whistling or a wheezing sound when exhaling

Bronchial inflammation is reversible and there are a variety of asthma bronchial treatment options available for people affected with this disease.


Prevention and symptom control is the key to treat bronchial asthma. Although the disease can not be cured it can be managed with appropriate preventive measures and the right medication. Patients may need to be aware and track possible triggers of their asthma condition. Known triggers of asthma attacks include pollen, dust, exercise and certain climate conditions. Once recognized these triggers should be avoided.

Regarding medications for bronchial asthma control there are two types: those for long-term control of the symptoms and those for quick-relief. Long-term control medications are used to reduce (and in most cases) to eliminate asthma symptoms while quick-relief drugs are used to rescue the patient from asthma attacks.

Long-term Control Medications

Inhaled corticosteroids. These are the most prescribed drugs for long-term control of asthma symptoms. Budesonide, fluticasone, flunisolide and beclomethasone are commonly prescribed corticosteroids drugs for bronchial asthma. These drugs act by reducing the chronic inflammation of the airways so the patient can have a normal respiratory process.

Long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) are taken with an inhaler but only in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid drug. Salmeterol and formoterol are commonly prescribed LABAs.

Leukotrienes modifiers (montelukast, zafirlukast and zileuton) and theophylline. These are two types of drugs that should be taken orally. They are aimed at controlling airway inflammation (bronchodilators) for 24 hours.

Quick-relief Medications

Quick-relief medications are rescue medications for fast, short-term relief during an asthma attack. Quick-relief medications include:

Short-acting beta agonists. They include albuterol, levalbuterol and pirbuterol. These act within minutes.

Ipratropium is another quick-relief drug that can be used for immediate relief of an asthma attack. It acts by quickly relaxing the airways and reducing asthma symptoms making it easier to breathe.

Oral and intravenous corticosteroids are used in severe cases of asthma and are administered in emergency rooms. Prednisone and methylprednisolone are two commonly used intravenous corticosteroids.

Allergy-related Asthma Treatment

If bronchial asthma attacks are constantly triggered by known allergens, a specific treatment should be followed. Besides prevention, the doctor may prescribe allergy shots (immunotherapy) against the allergen. Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment and may take up to a year to develop resistance against the allergen.

Omalizumab (Xolair) and other allergy medications (oral or nasal sprays) are usually prescribed for patients in which asthma is induced by allergies. They act on the immune system of the patient by controlling the allergy reaction and thus preventing asthma attacks.


Judith Peacock, Asthma. Perspectives on Disease and Illness Series, Capstone Press, 2000

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