Asthma Medications

There are two main types of medicine for asthma.

  • Daily Preventive Asthma Medicine
    • Taken daily as directed by your health care provider even when you feel fine
    • Taken to help prevent asthma symptoms
  • Rescue medication
    • Most often a rescue inhaler
    • Taken to help reverse asthma symptoms

About Daily Preventive Asthma Medication

  • Daily preventive asthma medication taken with an inhaler includes:
    • Inhaled corticosteroid (e.g. Flovent, Pulmicort, Asmanex)
    • Inhaled corticosteroid combined with a long-lasting bronchodilator. Your provider may tell you to take this if you still have asthma symptoms while taking an inhaled corticosteroid (e.g. Advair).

Daily preventive asthma medication taken as pills:

  • Leukotriene modifier (e.g. Singular, Montelukast)
  • Theophylline
    • Used to prevent asthma symptoms. Not for sudden asthma symptoms.
    • Reduces swelling inside airways and relaxes airway muscles.
    • Over time, your provider may stop, change or add daily preventive asthma medications.
    • Talk with your provider before you change any medications.
    • Take your daily preventive asthma medication at the same time, as directed by your provider.

About Your Rescue Asthma Medication

  • Everyone with asthma needs a rescue medication, such as a rescue inhaler (e.g. Albuterol, Atrovent, Xopenex).
  • A rescue inhaler helps open your airways when you have sudden asthma symptoms.
  • Always carry your rescue inhaler.

Helpful Tips for Taking Asthma Medication

  • When you use your rescue inhaler, circle that day on your calendar.
    • Record how many times you used it.
    • Tell your health care provider if you use it more than twice in a week.
  • Develop an asthma action plan with your provider at your next visit.
    • Asthma symptoms can change from day to day.
    • An asthma action plan helps you know what to do when you have asthma symptoms and should tell you:
      • Which medication to use – When to take them
      • How much to take – When to get help

What about steroids and asthma?

  • You may take a type of steroid called an inhaled corticosteroid every day as a daily preventive asthma medicine. This helps reduce swelling in the airways, which helps relieve asthma symptoms such as coughing and wheezing.
  • In some cases, corticosteroids are taken as pills and liquids for a short time if asthma symptoms are severe.
  • The steroids used for asthma are not the same as the steroids some people use to build muscle.
  • Take any asthma medication as directed by your provider.

REMEMBER: Talk with your health care provider at each visit about your asthma medication and symptoms.

What to Do If You Have Severe Asthma Symptoms

  • Follow your asthma action plan from your health care provider.
  • Use your rescue inhaler as directed by your provider.
  • Stay calm and breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Tell someone if you notice increased difficulty breathing.


  • You have trouble walking or talking
  • Your lips or fingernails are blue

If you have been to the emergency room or admitted to the hospital for asthma symptoms twice in the last year, it is recommended you visit an asthma specialist.   For more information or to set up an appointment St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, call (813) 870-1995. For an appointment St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital at Mease Countryside, call (727) 725-6298.

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