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Asthma Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • If you think you may have asthma, you should see a healthcare provider to be diagnosed and treated.
  • If you have increased use of your rescue inhaler, increased shortness of breath or wheezing, or you’re unable to control your asthma, see a healthcare provider.
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Emergency Care

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Call 911 or go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Your lips start to turn blue

The suppliers listed follow Buoy’s clinical guidelines, but listing the suppliers does not constitute a referral or recommendation by Buoy. When you click on the link and/or engage with these services Buoy will be compensated.

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All treatments for asthma
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Read more about asthma care options

When to seek medical advice for asthma

See a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of asthma. They will create an asthma action plan so you know how to care for the condition day to day, what to do if you have a flare-up, and when you may need emergency treatment.

Getting diagnosed

  • Your provider may do several breathing tests to diagnose asthma. The most common one is called spirometry. You’ll be asked to take a deep breath and then blow out as hard and fast as you can into a plastic mouthpiece connected to the spirometry machine.
  • Additional tests to help diagnose asthma include the exhaled nitric oxide test, which is a breath test measuring nitrous oxide, and the bronchoprovocation test, which uses a chemical to stimulate the airway to look for an asthma type response.
  • You may also get allergy testing, which can help determine if you have any triggers for asthma.

What to expect from your visit

Treatment of asthma usually includes using inhaler medications. There are two types: short-acting inhalers to stop flares after they start, and long-acting inhalers that some people need to take daily, even if you don’t have symptoms every day.

  • Albuterol/salbutamol inhalers, like Proventil, are available as a handheld inhaler or nebulizer (aerosolized medicine given through a mask) and are taken during a flare.
  • Your doctor may also advise you to use these inhalers before you’re exposed to a known trigger, like before you exercise. Albuterol works within 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Inhaled steroids like Flovent are long-acting medications that reduce inflammation. They start to work in 2–8 days, depending on your dose and type of steroid. It is important to rinse your mouth out after using an inhaled steroid to prevent oral thrush from developing.
  • During an asthma flare, you may also be prescribed an oral steroid (like prednisone), which usually works within hours.
  • Other long-acting inhalers include:
    • Long-acting anticholinergics like Spiriva
    • A combination of steroids and long-acting beta agonists like Advair
    • A combination of long-acting anticholinergics and long-acting beta agonists like Anoro Ellipta.

Prescription asthma medications

  • Albuterol/salbutamol inhalers: ProAir, Ventolin, Proventil
  • Inhaled steroids: Flovent, Pulmicort, QVAR
  • Long-acting anticholinergics: Atrovent, Incruse Ellipta, Spiriva
  • Steroids/long-acting beta agonist: Advair, Breo Ellipta, Dulera, Symbicort
  • Long-acting anticholinergics/long-acting beta agonist: Anoro Ellipta, Stiolto Respimat

Types of providers

  • A primary care provider can treat mild asthma.
  • People with moderate to severe asthma are often treated by allergists or pulmonologists (lung specialists).
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