There are two groups of asthma medicines:
BRONCHODILATORS are medicines that help to stop asthma attacks after they've started and can help prevent expected attacks, as from exercise.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES are medicines that help to control the air-way inflammation and prevent asthma attacks from starting. These medicines are sold under many brand names. They come in different forms, too. They can include sprays, pills, powders, liquids and shots. The doctor chooses the medicine and form that will work best for you.
Let's take a closer look at how these medicines can help you.
First, bronchodilators. These medicines give you relief during an asthma attack. Bronchodilators work to relax the muscles in your air tubes. As this happens, your air tubes open up, making it easier for you to breathe.
Anti-inflammatories, on the other hand, work to keep your air tubes open all of the time so that you don't have an asthma attack in the first place. These medicines reduce the swelling in your air tubes and decrease the mucus. Cromolyn and nedocromil are two examples of anti-inflammatory medicines. Another example is
Corticosteroids. When you hear the word "steroid" you might think of the steroids used by athletes. This may worry you if you have heard about the problems and side effects athletes have when taking steroids. But corticosteroids are not the steroids used by athletes. Those steroids are called "anabolic steroids."
Remember that corticosteroids are used to help prevent asthma attacks from starting. When you take this medicine in a spray form, the risk of serious side effects is very little, if any at all. The chance of serious side effects increases only when these medicines are taken in a pill or liquid form over a long period. In that case, you need to get regular check-ups by a doctor to make sure that the medicine works the best way for you.