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Treatments for Asthma

Our doctors will recommend the best form of treatment for your asthma. This will control your symptoms and prevent asthma from disrupting your life.

There are five different levels of treatment, based on how often your symptoms occur and how severe they are. If your current treatment isn’t working, our doctors can review it and see if you need a change in your medication to keep your symptoms under control.

Here are the most common treatments for asthma. Our doctors can talk you through each one and explain how they work, as well as possible side effects.

Avoiding Asthma Triggers

If your symptoms are mild, you know what triggers your asthma and it’s possible to avoid it, this might be all the treatment you need.

Examples of asthma triggers include

  • Quitting smoking
  • Outdoor allergens, such as pollens from grass, trees and weeds.
  • Indoor allergens, such as pet dander, dust mites and mold.
  • Certain drugs and food additives.
  • Irritants in the air, such as smoke, chemical fumes and strong odours.
  • Colds, the flu or other illnesses.
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Asthma Inhalers

Reliever Inhaler

You’ve probably seen one of these before. It’s the blue inhaler that asthma sufferers use to relieve their symptoms as and when they need to, particularly if they’re having trouble breathing.

It contains medicine that widens your airways within a couple of minutes and makes it easier to breathe. There are different types of reliever inhaler available.

  • Metered Dose Inhaler - Requires you to press a button to release the medicine
  • Breath Actuated Inhaler - Activated as soon as you inhale
  • Dry Powder Inhaler - Releases a powder instead of a spray

If you’re having to use your reliever inhaler more than three times a week, it’s recommended that you see a doctor, as you may need a stronger form of treatment to prevent asthma symptoms occurring.

Preventer inhaler

This inhaler is usually brown or orange, and you should use it every day in order to control your symptoms and reduce sensitivity to asthma triggers. It’s normally prescribed to people who suffer from symptoms regularly.

It contains a low dose of corticosteroids that can stop your airways from swelling. Due to the possible side effects of steroids, your doctor will prescribe an inhaler that contains the lowest dose of medicine possible for controlling your asthma. If you feel your preventer inhaler isn’t working, you should see your doctor about it.

It’s important to use your preventer inhaler exactly as directed by your doctor. If you stop using it because you’re feeling fine, the effects will wear off and you won’t feel the benefit.

You’ll probably have a reliever inhaler as well, as you’ll still need it to manage an outbreak of asthma symptoms. You should never use your preventer inhaler in this situation, as it won’t work quickly enough.

Asthma preventer inhaler

Combination Inhalers

A combination inhaler combines the effects of your reliever and preventer inhaler. It comes in a variety of colours, including pink, purple, grey, red and yellow.

Despite the fact your combination inhaler has a relief element, you must still keep hold of your reliever inhaler. Combination inhalers provide a longer-term medicine, so the blue reliever inhaler is always the quickest way to deal with symptoms if they occur.

How To Use Your Inhaler

In order for your asthma inhaler to be effective, it’s important to use it correctly. A survey from Asthma UK found that up to a third of inhaler uses aren’t using them properly.

Simply put, if your inhaler technique is wrong, it probably isn’t working. The exact technique varies depending on the type of inhaler you have. Our doctors will be more than happy to demonstrate the correct way to use your inhaler, so feel free to ask if you’re not sure!

Woman after using an asthma inhaler

Tablets for Asthma

If your inhaler doesn’t deal with your asthma symptoms, our doctors can prescribe tablets.

Leukotriene receptor antagonists

Unlike an inhaler, these don’t contain steroids. Rather than offering an anti-inflammatory, they block the chemicals released by your immune system when an asthma trigger is nearby. They are usually taken once a day.


Asthma triggers will often cause the muscles in your neck and chest to tighten, closing your airways and making it difficult to breathe. These tablets relax the muscles around your airways, keeping them open and ensuring you can breathe normally.

Man breathing freely after asthma treatment

Treatment For Severe Asthma

If your symptoms are very severe and leave you at risk of an asthma attack, you may need a stronger treatment. Our doctors can prescribe:


Steroids can prevent your airways from swelling. While they can work very well if all else fails, the risk of side effects means that your doctor will want to carefully monitor your steroid usage. You shouldn’t change your dosage without consulting them first.

Omalizumab and mepolizumab

You may be prescribed these medicines if you suffer from severe asthma and your symptoms have proved difficult to control with other forms of treatment. They’re given as an injection around once a month. Our doctors can provide the necessary referral for you to receive this treatment.

Woman free from asthma symptoms

What to do if you have an asthma attack

  1. Take one to two puffs of your reliever inhaler immediately.
  2. Sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths.
  3. If you do not start to feel better, take two puffs of your reliever inhaler (one puff at a time) every two minutes. You can take up to 10 puffs.
  4. If you've forgotten your inhaler, you don’t feel better after taking your inhaler as above, or you are worried at any time, call 999.
  5. If an ambulance doesn’t arrive within 10 minutes and you are still feeling unwell repeat step 3.

If you didn’t go to hospital because of your asthma attack, it’s recommended that you see a doctor within 24 hours. If you needed hospital treatment, you should still see a doctor for a follow-up appointment within 48 hours.

Our experienced GPs can review your health and see if you need to change your treatment to prevent another attack.

Sitting down is the first step if you have an asthma attack

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