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Monday, May 4, 2009

5 asthma meds you must take as directed

Asthma is perhaps one of the most furtive diseases on the disease market. You could have asthma your whole life and not know it, or you could have had asthma your whole life, and it all of a sudden seems to disappear.

In that sense, it can fool you.

Some asthmatics know they have the disease, yet they feel so good they simply decide to quit taking their meds. They become fooled by the furtive disease.

We see this quite often with Sometimer Asthmatics who only take their meds when it's convenient for them, and most often with Goofus Asthmatics.

Yet, as what happens way too often, no sooner do they quit taking their controller medicines their doctor prescribed and their asthma hits them hard as a mack truck on an expressway: it takes their breath away.

Don't be that fool who is fooled by the furtive disease called asthma.

Or, perhaps they are reluctant to take their meds because they're afraid of the side effects, or don't want to put un-needed chemicals into their body.

Look, folks, asthma wisdom has come so far in the past 20 years there is no reason anyone should ever suffer from uncontrolled asthma, and most of the little asthma attacks can easily be avoided simply by sticking with the medicine regime agreed upon by you and your physician.

Don't be fooled by the disappearing asthma trick.

Likewise, most medicines are proven safe for asthmatics if used appropriately, and they are easier to use and more convenient too.

It's fine if you need to come to the ER because you didn't know any better and your asthma got the better of you, or if you so happen to be a hardluck asthmatic. But, hey, don't be the foolish asthmatic who needs to make a trip to see me in the ER because he quit taking his medicines.

In a recent post at I listed five of the most important asthma medicines of 2009, and why it is important to use them exactly as prescribed.

Click here and I will morph you over to my asthma blog. Don't hesitate! This click may actually save you money, a wasted trip to the ER, your breath, and perhaps even your life.

5 Common Types of Asthma Meds & Why You Should Use Them As Prescribed
by Rick Frea Tuesday, February 10, 2009 @

It's frustrating for us RTs (and RNs and DRs too of course) when an asthmatic comes to see us in the ER and then we find out he stopped taking his meds meant to "prevent" such an attack.

It's equally frustrating when an asthmatic comes in only because his inhaler ran out. We know that most of the time if he would have come in right away instead of taking those extra puffs his asthma would not have gotten so bad.

That in mind, I have come up with a list of five types of asthma meds commonly prescribed for asthma, and why it is essential they be used as instructed:

1. Rescue inhaler: (
Albuterol, Xopenex) Ideally, Albuterol is to be used every 4-6 hours and Xopenex every 4-8 hours as needed for shortness of breath caused by narrowing of the airways (bronchospasm). It is meant to STOP an asthma attack. If it doesn't work, you should avoid abusing it.

Sure you may have realized -- as many asthmatics have -- that side effects to this drug are minimal, so abusing it is easy. Still, the fact you are still short of breath after two extra puffs of your rescue inhaler should be an indicator you need to see your doctor, and not that you need more puffs.

Of course it is acceptable that you take an extra puff or two occasionally for mild
asthma symptoms, and some of you may need it to prevent excercise-induced asthma, but if you need more than the occasional extra puff, this means that -- for a majority of you asthmatics -- your asthma is not controlled.

The fact you need this medicine more than recommended means that you are trying to manage your asthma on your own instead of calling your doctor and letting him do what he is trained to do.

(If you want some more tips on when to come into the ER for your asthma, check out this post, "
Having asthma symptoms? Here's five tips to help you decide what to do.")

Inhaled Corticosteroids: (Flovent, Pulmicort, Aerobid, Azmacort, Vanceril) These meds reduce inflammation in your lungs and ultimately make your lungs stronger so your lungs are better able to handle your asthma triggers, and your rescue inhaler works better when you need it.

It's takes 2-3 weeks for this medicine to get into your system and take full effect. And, therefore, if you wait until you are having an attack to start using it, the med will do you no good.

Long acting bronchodilators: (Serevent, formoterol) These are bronchodilators that last up to 12 hours and prevent asthma attacks. Normally, for asthma, they are given in conjunction with corticosteroids (Advair, Symbicort).

This med group usually takes up to 20 minutes to start working, and therefore will have little effect if used to stop an astha attack. Likewise, abuse of this medicine is believed to be a leading cause of death for asthmatics.

The FDA, however, has noted that the benefits of using this medicine far outweigh the risks, but this med is meant to be taken once in the morning and once before bed and NEVER more. It is also meant to be taken in conjuction with a corticosteroid. The FDA ruled that asthmatics, in general, are probably better off taking a
combo drug, i.e. Advair or Symbicort.

3. Leukotriene inhibitors: (
Singulair) This is an excellent medicine used to prevent allergies. It is more commonly prescribed for asthmatics because it blocks the leukotrienes from being released when your body is exposed to allergens, and thus prevents bronchoconstriction during an asthma attack.

This medicine should be taken once daily by mouth even when you are feeling good, and it also takes up to 2-3 weeks to start working. This is a preventative medicine that is most effective when it is well established in your system. It should not be taken to stop an attack.

There are, however, some exceptions you may want to discuss with your doctor, as this med can also be used 2 hours prior to excercise to prevent excercise induced asthma.
4. Anti-inflammatory agents: (
Cromolyn and Tilade) This is a classic asthma preventative medicine used to reduce swelling in your airways. It's also a mast cell stabilizer that prevents the release of hystamine, a chemical that can cause allergic reactions, and leukotrieins, a chemical that causes bronchospasm.

This type of medicine does not work to stop an asthma attack, and usually takes 1-2 weeks of continued use before it starts working. Therefore, if you stop using this medicine it will not prevent an asthma attack.

There is one other thing I can say about #2-4 above that may sometimes be overlooked, but I know from personal experience it is true:

If you take your preventative medicines exactly as prescribed, when you do have asthma symptoms these symptoms are likely to be less severe and more easily treated with your rescue inhaler (#1 above).

So don't be the
goofus asthmatic who abuses his rescue inhaler until it runs out before rushing to the ER, and don't be the asthmatic who makes a trip to the ER just because she decided to stop taking her preventative meds.

Instead, be the
gallant asthmatic who is thankful science has provided you the opportunity to control your asthma, and take care of yourself.

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