A Guide to Asthma Treatment and How to Use an Inhaler

Asthma attacks are life-threatening. Unfortunately, it is a condition that cannot be cured completely. However, asthma changes over time, and you can prevent them only through necessary precautions and treatments. The treatments involve staying away from triggers, tracking your breathing and taking medications to keep symptoms under control.

Available Treatments for Asthma


Your doctor administers medication based on your age, symptoms and triggers.

Your doctors administer long-term medications to prevent asthma attacks in the future. These medications must be taken long-term to reduce swelling in your airways. Plus, you also need to take quick-relief inhalers to open swollen airways.

Long-term asthma control medications are essential to living a healthy life. They eliminate your chance of getting an asthma attack.

Inhaled Corticosteroids

Your doctor will likely prescribe inhaled corticosteroids such as fluticasone propionate, budesonide, beclomethasone, mometasone, and fluticasone.

Leukotriene Modifiers

They are oral medications, including montelukast, zafirlukast and zileuton. These drugs provide relief from asthma symptoms.

Combined Inhalers

This drug is a combination of corticosteroid and long-acting beta agonist. They includes fluticasone-salmeterol, budesonide, formoterol-mmetasone and fluticasone.


It is a daily pill to relax your airways muscle and keep the airway open.

Quick-relief (rescue) Medications

They are used to avoid rapid asthma attacks.

Short-acting Beta Agonists

They are quick-relief bronchodilators that act within minutes to offer instant relief. They include albuterol and levalbuterol.

Short-acting beta-agonists are available as a portable hand-held inhalers or a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a machine that transforms medications into a mist. Then you have to inhale the steam through a mask or mouthpiece.

Anticholinergic Agents

Although mainly prescribed for emphysema and chronic bronchitis, Anticholinergic agents can also help treat asthma. The ingredients include ipratropium and tiotropium. They offer immediate relaxation to your airways, making it easier to breathe.

Oral and intravenous Corticosteroids

The active ingredients include prednisone and methylprednisolone. They are helpful in relief from an inflamed airway, a severe type of asthma. However, they are only prescribed on a short-term basis. Using them for a long time can cause serious side effects.

Allergy Medications

Allergies are the major triggers of an asthma attack. Your doctor may prescribe your allergy medications. They include −

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots can reduce your immune response to certain allergens. Allergy shots are generally prescribed for a week or a couple of months. Then the dose is reduced to once a month for 3-5 years.


Biologics are specifically administered to people with severe asthma. They include omalizumab, mepolizumab, dupilumab, reslizumab and benralizumab.

Bronchial Thermoplasty

This is an invasive therapy for severe asthma. It is an option when asthma can’t be controlled with an inhaled corticosteroid and other long-term medications. This treatment is pretty rare and not for everyone.

In this treatment, your doctor uses an electrode to heat the airways in the lungs. The heat reduces the smooth muscles of the airways, limiting their ability to tighten. This makes your breathing easier and reduces possible attacks in the future.

How to use an Inhaler for Asthma?

Inhalers are available in various types, and some need to be used differently. The following contains information about the types of inhalers and how to use them.

Every Day: Control Inhaler

They contain medication to control inflammation. They are usually used once or twice a day or as your doctor recommends.

You must use them even if you don’t have the symptoms and feel better.

If your doctor asked you to use them twice daily, use them 12 hours apart.

It usually takes 2-4 weeks before you see any results.

Quick Relief or Rescue Inhaler

They help bring your breathing back to normal. You must use them when you feel short of breath, cough, tightness in your chest and wheezing.

How to Use a Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI)?

Prime the Inhaler

Priming means spraying the inhaler into the air. You should do that every time you use a new inhaler. Also, if you haven’t used your inhaler for two weeks or more.

You must prime it about four times by shaking five times between each spray.

Using the MDI Inhaler without a Spacer

  • Shake it for 5 seconds.

  • Use your index finger on top and your thumb under the inhaler. Hold the spacer in your other hand.

  • Exhale.

  • Put the mouthpiece between your teeth and close your lips tightly.

  • Press the top down and breathe. Breathe for about 4-6 seconds until you feel the medicine in your lungs.

  • Hold the medicines within your lungs for about 5-10 seconds and breathe out.

  • If you think the air is not enough, repeat the process. Wait 15-30 seconds and shake the canister for your next puff.

  • Wash your mouth by gargling water (necessary for inhalers with steroids).

Using an MDI Inhaler with a Spacer

  • Put the inhaler in the spacer.

  • Shake the inhaler for five seconds.

  • Hold the inhaler on your index finger with your thumb underneath.

  • Place the mouthpiece as you do with an MDI without the spacer.

  • Press the top down and breathe until you fill your lungs with the medicine. 3-5 seconds is enough.

  • Hold the medicine inside your lungs for 5-10 seconds

  • Breathe out.

  • Repeat the process if needed.

  • Recap the mouthpiece.

  • Clean your mouth with water if your inhaler has steroids.

Using a Dry Powder Inhaler

  • Remove the cap.

  • Load the capsule in the device (if it is a single-use device).

  • Exhale slowly, but not into the mouthpiece.

  • Put the mouthpiece between your teeth and close your lips tightly around it.

  • Breathe in for 2-3 seconds.

  • Remove the inhaler.

  • Hold your breath for 4-10 seconds.

  • Breathe out slowly.

Note −

A quick-relief inhaler can be pretty helpful in easing the symptoms. However, you should make it a habit to use them frequently. The goal is to take your long-term medications and ensure they work properly.

Check how many puffs you use every week. If you must use the inhalers more frequently than the recommended amount, you must see your doctor.

Updated on: 05-May-2023


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