Asthma Medication Basics

It comes up repeatedly in our Buteyko courses that people are not aware of what their asthma medication does. As one person wrote after a course, " Doctors assume I understand what and why things happen. Usually I don't!"

There are basically two different kinds of asthma drugs: - relievers and preventers. Preventers are those drugs which are supposed to stop you needing the relievers. If you are taking a preventer and are still requiring relievers regularly, visit your doctor and say that you need a change to your preventer regime as you are having too many attacks.

Relievers are the drugs which you use to treat acute symptoms - ie the puffer you take when you feel tight, wheezy, breathless, or whatever your asthma symptoms are.

Some people who take a lot of relievers or who have asthma waking them at night find themselves taking a long acting reliever. Because this medication is taken regularly, probably both night and morning, people often think that it is a preventer but it isn't. It is to replace the several puffs of eg. Ventolin you used to take or it is to mask the problem so that you can sleep all night.

Preventers come in both steroid and non-steroid preparations. Most people are afraid of what the long-term use of steroids will do to their body and prefer to take relievers which they do not see as harmful.

We do not support the over-use of preventers, but it is highly unlikely that you will die from an acute attack of osteoporosis, yet many people have died when they have stopped taking their preventers - often overdosing on relievers instead.

Research suggests that taking relievers in large doses or on a regular basis will not improve your asthma and will probably make it worse over the long term. Please take your preventer as your doctor advises - when you control your reliever intake you can talk to your doctor about reducing your preventer intake.