People with asthma have trouble breathing. Everyday stuff, like animal
dander or cigarette smoke, can make it worse and trigger a flare-up.
A flare-up makes it hard for air to get in and out of the lungs. Airways fill with
mucus and the muscles around the airways can tighten up too.
Long-term control medicine decreases overall airway swelling and mucus. This
medicine works over a long period of time to help heal the airways and prevent asthma
symptoms. For that reason, they're sometimes also called "controller" or "maintenance"
medicines. They may be inhaled or taken as a pill or liquid.
Long-term control medicines should be taken regularly, even if you're feeling fine.
Taken properly, they'll decrease the number of flare-ups you have.
The most common long-term control medicines are called inhaled corticosteroids
(pronounced: kor-tih-ko-STAIR-oyds). Although they have "steroid" in the name, they
are not the same thing as performance-enhancing steroids — they work
only in your lungs. Corticosteroids are a safe and proven treatment for asthma.
What Is Quick-Relief Medicine?
Quick-relief medicine immediately loosens the muscles around the airways. That
opens up the airways and makes it easier to breathe.
Quick-relief medicines are also called "fast-acting" or "rescue" medicines. They're
usually breathed straight into the lungs to relieve wheezing, coughing, and shortness
of breath, often within minutes. The most common quick-relief medication is a quick-acting
How Do These Medicines Work Together?
Quick-relief medicines are important during a flare-up because they help you breathe
more easily right away. If your doctor has prescribed quick-relief medicine, you should
always have it with you — at school, on the basketball court, at the mall, and
even on vacation.
But quick-relief medicines wear off quickly. And they don't do anything to help
prevent a flare-up from happening in the first place. That's where long-term control
medicine comes in. You might not notice long-term control medicine doing anything,
but it's working behind the scenes to keep you from getting asthma flare-ups.
As the name suggests, long-term control medicine is important for controlling
asthma on a regular basis. If your doctor thinks you're needing quick-relief medicine
too often, he or she might also prescribe long-term control medicine.
Some people with mild asthma use only quick-relief medicines. Most people who have
more severe asthma have to take long-term control medicine every day, as well
as use quick-relief medicine when they have asthma symptoms. Your doctor will decide
what type of medicine you need and how often you need to take it.