Shortness of breath? Wheezing? You may have asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways in the lungs that can only be diagnosed and properly managed by a doctor. A person who suffers from asthma has very sensitive air passages (bronchi) that become inflamed and narrowed when breathing in certain “irritants” or “allergens.” This narrowing of the airways triggers asthma symptoms including wheezing, tightness of the chest, or shortness of breath – which in moderate to severe cases can lead to difficulty breathing, often called an asthma attack or asthma exacerbation.
An asthma trigger is a thing, activity, or condition that can cause your symptoms to worsen. There are several types of asthma triggers and your triggers can be different from those of someone else with asthma. Some of the most common types of asthma triggers include outdoor air pollution, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, respiratory infections, physical activity, strong chemical smells and odors, and smoke from burning tobacco or wood. Even extremely cold or hot weather can worsen asthma symptoms in some people. If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it is important to keep track of your triggers. If you are not sure what your asthma triggers are, allergy testing may be able to help. Speak with your doctor or other healthcare professional to help you recognize what makes your asthma symptoms worse and how you can best avoid your triggers.
If you have not yet been diagnosed with asthma but you have symptoms, immediately consult a doctor for a complete assessment, diagnosis, and a long-term treatment and management plan. If you suspect your child may have asthma, speak with your pediatrician right away.
Asthma treatments for long-term care and management are mostly only available with a prescription. A doctor will consider an individual’s unique combination of severity, symptoms, age, and triggers when deciding which asthma treatment may work best. Well-managed asthma patients should have appropriate prescription medicines and an asthma management plan from their doctor.
There are also over-the-counter (OTC) treatments available only for the temporary relief of mild symptoms caused by intermittent asthma. These products should only be used by people who have been properly diagnosed with asthma by a doctor. OTC asthma medicines are available in oral tablet and oral inhalation forms (metered-dose-inhaler (MDI) aerosols and nebulizer solutions).
Patients diagnosed with asthma who experience mild symptoms on no more than two days per week (intermittent asthma) may obtain temporarily relief with the use of OTC asthma medicines. OTC asthma medicines should only be used in people aged 12 years or older (aerosols and tablets), or four years and older (nebulized solutions).
Patients diagnosed by a doctor with persistent asthma should not use OTC asthma medicines for temporarily relief of mild, moderate, or severe asthma symptoms. Talk with your doctor about long-term asthma prevention and management.
OTC asthma medicines:
Bronkaid®, Primatene® Tablets
Primatene® MIST Aerosol Inhaler
Asthma medicines may also contain guaifenesin to relieve additional conditions, such as chest congestion and the build-up of mucus.
Safe use tips for asthma medicines
You should not use an OTC asthma medicine unless a doctor has told you that you have asthma. Asthma is a serious disease that should be properly diagnosed and monitored by a doctor. If you have asthma, talk to your doctor about available treatment options and ways to prevent attacks.
Always read the Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine, including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product.
Asthma medicines may interact with certain prescription medicines. Talk to your doctor if you are on a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or a prescription drug for depression, a psychiatric or emotional condition, or Parkinson’s disease.
Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as common OTC pain relievers, like ibuprofen and naproxen, may trigger symptoms in people with asthma. Talk with your doctor before taking these medicines if you have asthma.
Talk to a doctor before using an asthma medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Do not use an OTC asthma medicine on any child unless a doctor has diagnosed your child with asthma and a proper course of treatment has been determined.
Children under the age of 12 should not use OTC asthma medicines containing ephedrine.