Asthma attacks are the period of time when symptoms flare up, and can vary in severity. Often, triggers such as exercise, tobacco smoke, mold, air pollution, pollen, colds or the flu bring on asthma attacks. Prescription medication is typically used to help prevent asthma attacks and to reduce the symptoms of asthma attacks when they happen. Below are some common types of asthma medication that your doctor may prescribe.

Asthma Inhalers

The most common and effective way to treat asthma is with medications that enter the airways directly via an inhaled medication. There are two types of asthma inhalers, relief (or rescue) inhalers and preventative inhalers. Relievers are meant to be used when an asthma attack happens, and are designed to provide immediate relief to symptoms. Preventers help reduce the risk of severe asthma attacks by lining the airways with medications that help control swelling and inflammation.


Many asthma treatment plans include corticosteroids. These are a type of steroid that is naturally produced in the body and safe. They should not be confused with the steroids associated with misuse by athletes or bodybuilders. Corticosteroids can be given by inhaler or by tablets. Most inhalers have a small amount of steroids in the solution, but stronger doses can be prescribed. Steroid pills are usually given as a short course (three to 14 days) to help reverse inflamed airways following illness or prolonged exposure to triggers. Few people will need to take steroids long-term, and it is important to discuss the risks versus benefits with your provider if extended use of steroids is suggested.

Ramie Tritt, M.D., President, Atlanta ENT