Asthma Medicines

Medicines Used to Treat Asthma

There are two main types of asthma medicines:

  • Controllers
  • Relievers

  • Controllers work to help prevent swelling, inflammation, and extra mucous inside the airways.
  • Relievers relax the muscles around the outside of the airways. They are also called short-acting bronchodilators.
  • Most asthma medicines are inhaled into the lungs.
  • Not every child needs both types of asthma medicines.
  • Every child should have a Reliever.


Things I Should Know About My Asthma Medicine:

  • How to use it
  • Why it is used
  • How it works
  • How often it should be used
  • How long it should be used for
  • Problems if taken with other medicines
  • Possible side effects
  • Cost


Controller Medicine

  • Controllers, also called Preventers are the most important medicines to control asthma.
  • Controllers medicine can be a steroid or non-steroid medicines.
  • Controllers work slowly over a few days and must be used every day.
  • Controllers are started or increased at the first sign of a cold or worsening asthma.
  • Combination medicines contain both a Controller and a long-acting bronchodilator medicine.


Examples of Controller Medicines



Pulmicort® (budesonide) QVAR™ (beclomethasone) Alvesco® (ciclesonide) Singulair® (montelukast)
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Combination Medicines


 (Fluticasone & saleterol*)


 (budesonide & fomeroterol*)

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* Long-acting Bronchodilator


Reliever Medicine

  • Relievers do not work on the swelling inside of the airways.
  • They relieve asthma symptoms (cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and chest tightness).
  • Relievers work quickly and for a short period of time.
  • Relievers should help your asthma symptoms within 10 minutes.
  • Relievers can be used 10-15 minutes before exercise once a day to prevent asthma symptoms.
  • If the Reliever medicine is needed for symptoms more than 3 times a week, asthma is NOT controlled.
  • Symbicort contains formoterol and may also sometimes be used as a Reliever.


Examples of Reliever Medicines

Ventolin® Novo-Salmol®  








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Asthma Medicines

  • Keep your Reliever medicine with you at all times.
  • Keep track of how much medicine you have, when it expires, and when you need a refill.
  • Each time you change medicine keep track of your asthma symptoms. Let your doctor know how your asthma has been since starting the new medicine.
  • If the Reliever medicine does not begin to work in 10 minutes, go to the emergency room.
  • If you need your Reliever medicine every four hours, talk with your doctor. If needed more than every three hours, go to the emergency room.
  • If asthma symptoms occur more than three times in a week, you may need a Controller medicine to keep asthma in control.


Asthma Allie Says:

"Learn how to correctly use your inhaler, ask your asthma educator, doctor or pharmacist to show you how".


The Children's Allergy & Asthma Education Centre © 2013