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Asthma: Your 'Rescue' Medicine

So, you are treating your asthma on a daily basis in order to be able to control the symptoms and not to fall away from your life. You do your schedule; do you regular visits of doctor. You are getting stable or even better. Congratulations! This is very good news, unless… you have plan B for the ‘possible - asthma - attack - situation’. This means you always have something in your bag or purse in case of possible getting worse. I’m talking about another part of asthma treatment - quick-relief medications. Or in other words, short-term control medications.

Everyone with asthma needs a quick-relief or "rescue" medicine to stop asthma symptoms before they get worse. You should take your quick-relief medicine when you first begin to feel asthma symptoms: coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. That is why they should be always available to you as fast as it possible: carry your quick-relief inhaler with you at all times in case of an asthma attack.

Short-term control medications / rescue medications

The quick-relief medications are taken to rapidly relieve you from asthma attach during that attack. These medications are taken at the first signs of asthma symptoms for immediate help from this episode. The effect of the medicines is felt within the minutes. An important issue would be that rescue medications do not replace long-term drugs. Do not stop taking your controller drug during an asthma attack! First of all you should already know what to do when you are having asthma attack.

· You should take your reliever treatment immediately, better with a spacer

·  Calm down and sit down. Do not lie at that moment

·  Wait for a five to ten minutes. You symptoms are likely to disappear, you do not need to do anything

·  If your symptoms won’t go - call a doctor or an ambulance. Meanwhile, continue taking your reliever (with a spacer) every few minutes

Quick-relief medications available to you:

1.  Inhalers

Inhaler-reliever is used when your asthma symptoms occur. Short-acting relievers (known as bronchodilators) contain medicines such as salbutamol and terbutaline that work to widen your airways and quickly ease your symptoms. They stop the symptoms of an asthma attack in progress. You just take these medications when you begin to have symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Commonly known medications are Ventolin, Proventil, Xopenex,  and Bricanyl. These inhalers are usually of brown, orange or red color.

2. Corticosteroids (oral and intravenous)

Medicines that are contained in these drugs are prednisone or methylprednisolone. The drugs can be given by mouth or injected into a vein, as needed, to the person with mild asthma. Corticosteroids (such as prednisone, methylprednisolone, hydrocortisone, etc.) may take a few hours or a few days to be fully effective. While using for a long time it may cause serious side effects, such as cataracts, loss of bone mineral (osteoporosis), muscle weakness, high blood pressure, decreased resistance to infection, thinning of the skin. A severe asthma attack requires a medical evaluation and other long-term medications.

3. A peak flow meter

A peak flow measurements can help show when medication is needed. With the help of this device you can measure lung volume at home to help you be aware of whether the attack is coming or not. Sometimes it can be done even before symptoms occur. Peak flow measurements may also indicate a severe attack and give you the time to think whether other action needs to be taken in the situation.

4.  Short-acting beta-2 agonists

These medications unlike LABAs (long-acting beta-2 agonists) begin working within minutes and last four to six hours. They are bronchodilators, most of which are containing albuterol. They act quickly to relax tightened muscles around your airways so that the airways can open up and allow more air (thus oxygen) to flow through. The drugs are helpful, but do not guarantee that symptoms won’t come back.

5.  Anticholinergics

This is another class of drugs useful as rescue medications during asthma attacks. This is one more option for the immediate relief of your asthma symptoms. Inhaled anticholinergics take a little bit longer than beta-agonists to achieve their effect – to open the breathing passages – but they last longer than the beta-agonists. Very often these drugs (anticholinergics and beta-agonists) are combined for a greater effect. Ipratropium bromide (Atrovent) is the inhaled anticholinergic drug that is currently used as a quick-relief asthma medication.

What things should you do to ‘get rescued from your asthma’ as quickly as possible? The things that will absolutely sure bring long-term effect? Do the following:

· I hope you are not smoking!

·  Avoid taking cough medicine, as this do not help asthma and may cause unwanted side effects

· Use only inhalers proscribed by your doctor. Otherwise, nonprescription ones may not last long enough to relieve an asthma attack, as they contain very short-acting drugs. Possible side effects are also a danger.

· Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) should be taken only after the advice of your health care provider, as they can cause asthma to worsen in certain individuals.

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· Treating is about your doctor and you. Doctor proscribes, you follow his or her directions exactly. Do not take the medications that helped your mother, or your friend. This is all true about any nonprescription preparations, herbs, or dietary supplements. Do not take them, even if they are completely ‘natural’. Unless your doctor says they would not interact with your medications and would not cause side effects. Do not stop using them before consulting your health care provider. If the medication is not working, do not take more than you have been directed to take. Overusing asthma medications can be very dangerous.

What else should be done? You are taking your medications; you do whatever you need properly and wear a huge inhaler in your suit pocket or small clutch bag or something? Keep on living. This is a good job you are doing.

Valentyna Ant.

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