Frequently Asked Questions

Asthma is a serious health issue. With the right combination of planning and medication, patients can reduce their risk of attacks, hospitalizations and prevent chronic symptoms.

Question: Why use a controller inhaler every day when asthma only bothers me sometimes?

Answer: For the most benefit, use your controller inhaler every day. Controller medicines prevent asthma flares and keep breathing from getting worse. For twice daily controller inhalers, use every morning and evening. If more convenient, controllers can be use it in the morning and at bedtime.

Why can’t I just take a daily pill to control my asthma?

Inhaled medicines go only to your lungs. Each dose is very, very small. So, daily inhaled medicines are safer than the same medicine in pills. Mouth soreness and hoarseness are usually minor with inhaled medicines. But these can be prevented by rinsing your mouth after each use.

Is there a best way to use my inhaler?

All inhaler devices are not the same. For medicine to reach your lungs, the correct method for each specific device is critical. Breathing the medicine looks easy, but can be tricky. Ask your pharmacist to watch you breathe in your medicine. She may have tips to help you get the most medicine.

What else can I do for my breathing, in addition to taking a controller medicine?

  • Prevent the flu! See your pharmacist to be vaccinated every year. The early fall, September to October, is the best time.
  • See your provider for an annual asthma check-up! He will check your breathing. He will also adjust and renew your medicines.
  • Know and avoid your asthma triggers! Triggers are different for different people. If smoke, flowers, or animals bother your breathing, stay away. If you can’t avoid a trigger, take a quick-relief medicine. Use 2 puffs before a known trigger or as soon as you notice it.

When should I replace my inhaler medicines?

Don’t run out of asthma medicine! When you have 5 days left of your controller medicine, call your pharmacist for a refill. If you need a new prescription, the pharmacist will need to call your provider. It can sometimes take a few days for your provider to call the pharmacist back.
Call when you have 20 doses left of your quick relief medicine. In case of an asthma flare, you should always have a few days’ doses on hand.

How do I know if my controller medicine is working?

Be patient. It takes several weeks to see the full benefit of a controller medicine. Your asthma is controlled when you:

  • Rarely wake up at night coughing or wheezing less than twice a month.
  • Can do all your desired activities.
  • Do not miss work or school.
  • Have symptoms less than 2 days a week.

If your asthma is not controlled after 4-6 weeks, call your provider. You may need a higher dose or a second controller medicine. Both controller medicines could be in one device. Also, ask your pharmacist to check how you breathe in the medicine. Breathing in the medicine correctly is important for it to work.

What should I do if I have trouble breathing?

When you first notice symptoms, take 2 puffs of your quick-relief medicine like albuterol, Ventolin®, or ProAir®. A quick-relief medication relaxes airway muscles to help you breathe. Your breathing should be better in 5-10 minutes. If symptoms return, continue a quick relief medicine every 4 to 6 hours. If symptoms continue, follow your asthma action plan.

An action plan outlines what to do when your asthma flares. To create the best asthma action plan for you, talk to your provider or pharmacist.

When my asthma flares, how do I know to call my provider?

Here are some suggestions. Call your provider if:

  • Your breathing is not back to normal in 48 hours.
  • Quick relief medicine doesn’t last 4 hours.
  • Your breathing is getting worse instead of better.
  • You miss work or school.
  • You have a fever or chills.

Follow your action plan from your provider. Your plan may list others.

When should I go to the emergency department or call 911?

Asthma episodes can be very serious. Seek help immediately if:

  • Your quick relief medicine doesn’t seem to help.
  • Your lips or fingers are blue.
  • You struggle to breathe or talk.
  • You can’t walk even short distances.

Again, check your action plan for more. If you have no one to drive you, call x 911. Driving yourself would be dangerous.

I have heard that inhaled steroids stunt growth in children. Are inhaled steroids safe for children?

The exact answer is not known. Some data shows that growth may slow a little, but children will likely still reach their normal height. Steroids are preferred controller medicines, even for children. Daily inhaled steroids work the best. Small doses prevent breathing episodes and hospitalization. Providers strive for the lowest dose for children to live active, normal lives.
We know for sure that uncontrolled asthma is bad for children. Less sleep harms learning in school. Poor breathing limits normal play. Flares are treated with large, frequent doses of steroid medicine. Serious episodes may require urgent care and missed school. Every year, children die during asthma attacks. Tell any concerns to your provider or pharmacist. They can answer your questions and address any of your concerns.