Asthma Medications

Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, your doctor will make a treatment plan—including medications—that best addresses your symptoms.

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Asthma medications have certain risks and side effects. Your healthcare provider will discuss these with you when determining which treatment option, if any, is right for you.

Quick Relief vs Long-Term Control

Some people experience mild, infrequent symptoms and may only need quick-relief medications. Others suffer from frequent and persistent symptoms that require long-term controller medications. Consult your doctor or asthma specialist to determine the best course of treatment for your type of asthma.

Find an Asthma Specialist

Icon: Quick Relief for Asthma

Rescue/Quick Relief:

  • Treats sudden asthma symptoms
  • Relaxes the muscles around the airways of the lungs
  • Typically delivered by an inhaler—or nebulizer if needed
  • Portable and should be accessible at all times
Icon: Long-Term Control for Asthma

Long-Term Control:

  • Taken daily or at regular intervals regardless of symptom frequency
  • Used for preventing, not relieving symptoms on the spot
  • Reduces inflammation in the airways of the lungs
  • Can be inhalers, pills, or injections
  • Multiple medications can be combined and delivered in a single inhaler


Asthma inhalers are handheld and portable, and are used to deliver asthma medication directly into your airways. It’s not uncommon for people with asthma to use one or more inhalers to manage their symptoms, depending on their needs.


Common Inhaler Medications and Uses

Quick-Relief Inhalers


Short-Acting Beta2-Agonists (SABA)

These medications are intended to quickly relax the muscles surrounding your airways and are generally kept on hand at all times to relieve asthma attack symptoms.

Long-Term Control Inhalers


Inhaled Corticosteroid (ICS)

Prevents airway swelling and reduces mucus in your lungsCan help provide effective relief for long-term control


Long-Acting Beta2-Agonist (LABA)

Bronchodilator that opens airways by relaxing muscles around the airwaysAlways paired with an inhaled corticosteroid


Long-Acting Muscarinic Antagonist (LAMA)

Bronchodilator that opens airways by relaxing muscles around the airways Mainly prescribed for people with COPDChronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but are sometimes helpful for people with severe asthma

Taken alongside LABA or inhaled corticosteroids

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Packages more than one medicine into one inhaler for easier delivery


Learn More About a Combination Inhaler Option

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Inhaler Types

Metered Dose Inhaler

A metered-dose inhaler uses a pressurized canister to release a single dose of medication into your lungs. It’s used by pushing the canister into a boot-shaped mouthpiece that dispenses the dosage. It can be used for quick-relief or long-term control medications.

Dry Powder Inhaler

A dry powder inhaler is breath-activated rather than pressurized and delivers medicine in powder form. It’s used by taking a deep, fast breath in through the inhaler, which releases the medicine. They come as single and multiple-dose inhalers and can be used for quick-relief or long-term control medications.

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A nebulizer delivers medication as a fine mist through a mask that's worn over the mouth and nose. It's often used by patients who have trouble using an inhaler, such as infants, young children, and people who need large doses of medication or are very ill.

Icon: Oral Medication for Asthma

Oral Controller Medicines

Asthma medications can also come in tablet or liquid form.

Leukotriene modifiers

A long-term control medicine that blocks chemicals called leukotrienes, which can increase swelling in your airways.


A long-term bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles around the airways of the lungs and opens your airways. It can be taken as a tablet, capsule, solution, or syrup.

Oral Corticosteroids

While oral corticosteroids are generally used as a short-term treatment for severe asthma attacks, they may be used as maintenance treatment in some patients. However, with extended use comes an increased risk of side effects.

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Biologic Injections

If you have severe asthma that is not responding well to inhaled or oral long-term controller medications, your doctor may prescribe a biologic injection. In asthma patients, biologics target specific antibodies, molecules, and certain immune system cells to stop them from causing lung inflammation that can lead to the development of asthma symptoms.

Who Is a Candidate?

Biologics are typically for patients who continue to experience severe asthma symptoms despite following a strict routine of long-term, daily control medications. Before you're placed on a biologic, your doctor will discuss the risks and side effects to determine which treatment, if any, is right for you.

How Are They Administered?

Biologics are commonly administered in a doctor’s office as an injection. Some biologics can be administered at home via an automatic injector or needle and syringe. The frequency of injections can differ depending on which medication is prescribed.

Explore a Biologic Treatment Option

Uncontrolled Asthma's Effects Over Time

Certain asthma symptoms may have long-term effects that can impact your overall health.

Learn About Effects Over Time

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