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Asthma is caused by inflammation of small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, the bronchi will be inflamed and more sensitive than normal. When you come into contact with something that irritates your lungs your airways become narrow, the muscles around them tighten and there is an increase in the production of sticky mucus (phlegm). This leads to symptoms including:
Although there's no cure for asthma, there are effective medicines for asthma that allow most people to control their asthma so that is doesn't interfere with daily life.
Bronchodilators - Reliever inhalers
Relievers are medicines that are taken immediately to relieve asthma symptoms. They quickly relax the muscles surrounding the narrowed airways.
Bronchodilators relax the muscles around the airways (breathing tubes). When the airways are more open, it is easier to breathe. There are two general types of bronchodilators, and you may be prescribed one or more types:
Short-Acting bronchodilators work quickly after you take them so that you feel relief from symptoms quickly.
Long-Acting bronchodilators have effects that last a long time. They should not be used for quick relief. These medications are only recommended for use when combined with an anti-inflammatory asthma medicine (see below).
Anti-Inflammatories - Preventer inhalers
Preventers control the swelling and inflammation in the airways, stopping them from being so sensitive and reducing the risk of severe attacks.
Anti-Inflammatory medicines help by reducing the swelling and mucus production inside the airways. When that inflammation is reduced, it is easier to breathe. These medicines are also called corticosteroids or steroids. Most often, these are inhaled medications and it is important to rinse out your mouth with water immediately after using them to avoid getting a yeast infection in your throat called thrush.
Some corticosteroids are in pill form and usually are used for short periods of time in special circumstances, such as when your symptoms are getting worse.
Using your inhalers
Using an inhaler is the most common way of taking asthma medicines. It is also a very effective way because inhaling the medicine takes it straight into your lungs.
Asthma may go through good and bad patches, and when asthma becomes severe there is increased inflammation in the airways.
A spacer is a large plastic or metal container, with a mouthpiece at one end and a hole for the aerosol inhaler at the other.
A nebuliser is a machine that creates a mist of medicine, which is then breathed in through a mask or mouthpiece.
bacterial or viral infections - Flu vaccinations
Colds and flu are triggers for around 90% of people with asthma. People with asthma can have flare-ups that may be caused by bacterial or viral infections. Your doctor may want you to have a prescription for an antibiotic or an anti-viral that you keep on hand and that you will be told to get filled if you have an infection coming on.
It is important to take any antibiotic exactly as prescribed and to take it all, even if you start to feel better before it is all used up. If you do not take it all, the infection may come back and be even stronger and harder to treat.
This is a new procedure designed to reduce the symptoms of asthma and to reduce the risk of asthma attacks that can occur in moderate to severe asthma.
These non-steroidal alternatives are considered to be less effective preventer therapies but they may be of value in treating allergic asthma.