What are the Different Types of Asthma Therapy?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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Asthma therapy may be classified in a number of ways. Commonly there are distinctions made between what are called acute and long term or chronic therapy. In other words, what needs to be done to treat an immediate attack, and what needs to be done to reduce number of attacks? In this second category there is a sub-group that could be called educational/preventative. Another form of asthma medical care that is presently being given much research and thought is based on genetics and the ways certain proteins in the body might respond to specific treatments; use of this therapy is likely to remain investigational for some time.

What forms of asthma therapy people receive may depend on the severity of their conditions. The person developing asthma only with bronchitis or pneumonia may just need acute therapy. Follow-up could be needed after an illness to make sure a chronic condition doesn’t develop. When people start having this breathing disorder regularly, interest starts to coalesce around the idea of treating each breathing impairment episode and aiming at preventing as many of them as possible.


In acute asthma therapy, the issue at hand is to treat each attack as it occurs. This is normally done with a variety of bronchodilators, medications that help to open the airway quickly. Common medications used for this purpose include albuterol, which could be inhaled via a nebulizer or a small inhaler. Sometimes more treatment is required and this may come in the form of oral or injected stimulants that open the airways much more quickly.

Some people with asthma suffer frequently from attacks and may be in a state where restriction of the airway occurs quite readily. The goal, then, is to reduce this inflammation at all times, and this can be done with many medications, a number of them steroid-based. Many of these are inhaled too, but most are not fast-acting or acute inhalers.

Long-acting inhalers are used in chronic asthma therapy to reduce overall attacks, but many of them can be dangerous if substituted for fast-acting medications. It is extremely important that people understand this distinction. There have been deaths related to the issue of discarding acute therapy tools if chronic asthma therapy is in place.

In this category of chronic treatment, there are several more important tools to be utilized. While some asthma prevention may occur with steroidal or other inhalers, people also need to learn what their triggers are and attempt to avoid them. This might include avoiding known allergens, irritants or any other factors that appear to create attacks. Sometimes additional medication like antihistamines is used to help reduce likelihood of an attack occurring.

With any form of asthma treatment, education is also vital. Asthma sufferers or their parents need to know when to head to the hospital, what medications to use if a severe attack occurs, and when to contact a doctor if symptoms are persisting. This could be termed chronic and acute asthma therapy, since this knowledge may help to prevent life-threatening attacks and address them when they occur.

Interesting studies in the late 2000s suggest there may be a strong genetic component to successful asthma therapy. Early studies posit that specific types of proteins at the molecular level may influence response to medications. This could help doctors more precisely analyze medication and treatment needs, particularly in people whose bodies have not responded to conventional therapies.

Such research suggests that ultimately, doctors might be able to determine therapies by an analysis of protein makeup, and that these treatments would be far more likely to succeed. Testing like this is currently not available, and might not be for many years. In the interim, doctors must rely on present proven medical information when determining what medications/treatments are best for their patients.



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