Asthma treatment and advice
How can asthma affect me?
Asthma is a long-term condition where your airways get inflamed and narrow, the reason for which is not always clear. It affects 5.4m people in the UK* and the severity of asthma symptoms can vary from person to person. Asthma generally causes shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest and coughing, especially at night. Symptoms can vary in the course of the day or during different seasons. If you have a child who has been recently diagnosed with asthma, you may find our childhood asthma advice helpful.
How can I take control of my asthma?
It’s possible to control your symptoms with asthma treatment, including a preventer inhaler so that you have fewer or no symptoms at any time of day. This can allow you to exercise without problems. It’s not a bad idea to learn and remember the three asthma Ts: Treatment, Technique and Triggers. For more information about what could be triggering your asthma visit our asthma triggers page.
How do I know when to go to A&E?
If you are having an asthma attack, you need to call an ambulance to get to A&E as soon as possible for the urgent treatment you need. You’re having an asthma attack if any of the following happens:
- Your reliever isn’t helping or lasting over four hours
- Your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest)
- You’re too breathless or it’s difficult to speak, eat or sleep
- Your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you can’t get your breath in properly.
When you go to A&E, remember to take your written asthma action plan with you. For more information on asthma attacks, visit NHS choices.
What are the main asthma treatments?
The main treatment for asthma is inhalers which can be split into two types; a preventer inhaler which you will need to use every day, even if your asthma is under control and a reliever inhaler (usually blue) to use when needed if you are suddenly short of breath.
Preventer - This opens up your airways over a period of time and reduces the inflammation in your lungs. To keep your asthma under control, you need to use this inhaler every day. Always rinse your mouth with water afterwards to avoid any soreness in your mouth.
Reliever - Keep this inhaler with you at all times and use it whenever you experience shortness of breath. It will help open your airways quickly and help you breathe more easily. You should keep a spare inhaler at work or school in case of emergencies, so ask your doctor to prescribe an extra one for you. If you notice that your current treatment is not controlling your symptoms, speak to your local LloydsPharmacy pharmacist, asthma nurse or GP for advice.
Is there a drug free asthma treatment?
If you’re looking for an asthma treatment that uses natural methods to use alongside your prescribed asthma medications, then the REVITIVE aerosure could be the right option for you. This device features a unique dual function to aid breathlessness by strengthening your lungs if used regularly. It also provides lung relief by vibrating the airways to add sputum removal. The Aerosure uses a spinning valve to quickly open and close the flow of air in and out of the lungs, this is done as you breathe through the mouthpiece. Ensure to seek the advice of your GP before using this product.
What are add-on asthma treatments?
In order to properly manage your condition, you may need extra treatments alongside your preventer and reliever inhalers. Your GP might call these ‘add-on treatments’ or ‘add-on therapies’ and they work in various ways, alongside your inhalers. Before prescribing an add-on asthma treatment, your GP or asthma nurse will check that you’re using your inhaler properly and taking it every day, as directed.
You’ll usually be prescribed one add-on treatment at a time to see if it makes a difference. If it doesn’t improve your asthma within a few weeks, your GP may stop it and try another one. Common add-on treatments include leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs), theophylline and long-acting reliever inhalers. It’s really important to be honest with your GP about how you’re feeling. It can be helpful to keep a diary while you’re trying an add-on asthma treatment to track if symptoms improve or get worse.
Common add-on treatments for asthma
Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) - Sometimes called ‘preventer’ tablets, LTRAs work by blocking one of the chemicals that is released when you come into contact with a trigger so are particularly effective if your asthma is triggered by exercise or allergies.
Theophylline - This medication works by relaxing the muscles that surround the airways, making it easier to breathe. If you’re prescribed this medicine, you’ll need regular blood tests to check the levels are neither too high nor too low.
Long-acting reliever inhalers -There are two different types of long-acting reliever inhalers; long-acting beta agonists (LABA) and long-acting muscarinic receptor antagonists (LAMA). They both keep your airways open by relaxing the muscles around them, which helps you breathe more easily. Plus, LAMA inhalers have also been shown to reduce the amount of mucus produced in your airways.
If you’re prescribed any additional medicines, it’s important that you use them alongside your usual preventer inhaler.
Are you using your inhaler correctly?
There’s a range of different types of inhalers that you might be prescribed, but mostly they fall into two categories; preventer or reliever. Each one has a particular technique that needs to be used to receive the right dose of asthma medicine.
Pressurised, metered-dose inhalers
These are the most common inhalers.
- Shake your inhaler well before use
- Put it in your mouth and make a seal with your lips around the mouthpiece
- Press the canister at the top to release the drug while inhaling it in one deep, gentle breath.
Set up your inhaler by following the manufacturer’s instructions and inhale as directed. The pharmacist can help you to perfect your technique. You may notice a taste in your mouth after inhaling.
We can help you improve your inhaler technique
If you want to improve your inhaler technique, you can use a spacer to make taking the medication easier. Spacers are effective for any age, but they are essential for helping children to take their medicine. Please pop into your local LloydsPharmacy and ask a member of our friendly team for more information. If you find it difficult to hold your inhaler or press the canister down, consider a Haleraid that attaches an easy-squeeze handle to the inhaler.
How can LloydsPharmacy support me?
Follow the treatment directions given to you by your GP – and don’t forget you can visit any LloydsPharmacy and talk to us about how we can support you. We’re happy to talk about how you’re managing your asthma and we can answer any questions or concerns you have and offer our expert advice.
*Asthma UK November 2016