Avoidance of allergens and irritants: Depending on the person’s history and the results of any allergy testing, specific measures to reduce exposure to the substances to which one is allergic is a vital part of asthma management. This will help reduce the amount of medications needed to control asthma.
Treatment of underlying medical conditions: Chronic sinus problems, acid reflux (heartburn), obesity, and other conditions may cause or aggravate asthma. It is important that these problems be addressed in order to have ideal control of asthma. Since viral infections are common triggers of asthma, yearly flu vaccinations are recommended for patients with asthma.
Medications: There are two basic categories of asthma medications- relievers and controllers. Relievers are commonly called rescue inhalers or bronchodilators, which temporarily relieve symptoms by relaxing constricted bronchiole tubes. These are typically used only when needed. Controllers are anti-inflammatory medications, which prevent or heal the inflammation inside the bronchiole tubes. These are generally used every day as a preventive medication. Most patients with asthma will require a bronchodilator (ex. Albuterol or Xopenex) for occasional, as-needed, use. In patients with more persistent or chronic asthma, daily preventive therapy with an anti-inflammatory controller medication is necessary. Occasionally, patients with milder asthma will require anti-inflammatory therapy for short periods as with respiratory infections, or during their allergy season. Most patients, however, do best with year-round use of these preventive medications.
Allergy Immunotherapy Injections: Allergy injections are the most effective long-term preventive strategy for the treatment of allergies. For many individuals, allergies are a significant trigger of asthma and aggressive control of their allergies can decrease the amount of asthma symptoms these individuals experience. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) help build up your immunity to the exact items to which you are allergic. They can improve asthma directly by reducing the sensitivity of the lungs to inhaled air-borne allergens which can contribute to airway inflammation. They can indirectly improve asthma by reducing inflammation of the nasal and sinus passageways, thereby re-establishing the normal filtration and humidification of inspired air that is so important for lung health. Furthermore, control of environmental allergies can decrease the amount of infections, which are a major asthma trigger, one experiences. The length of treatment depends on the nature and severity of the allergy.
Patients whose asthma symptoms interfere with work, school, recreation, or sleep and who are allergic to substances that are hard to avoid should seriously consider injections for long-term control.