Asthma Capitals 2018: Quick-Relief Medicine Use

In the AAFA's Asthma Capitals 2018 Report Download PDF, AAFA looked at eight risk factors that can affect asthma rates: poverty, lack of health insurance, poor air qualitypollen countslong-term control medicine use,  quick-relief medicine use, smoking laws and access to specialists

Both long-term control medicines (sometimes called “controllers”) and quick-relief medicines (sometimes called “rescue inhalers”) may be needed for managing asthma.

Quick-relief medicines help relieve asthma symptoms as they are happening. These medicines act fast to relax tight muscles around your airways. This allows the airways to open up so air can flow through them.

If you use quick-relief medicines more than two days a week, your asthma may not be under control. Talk with your health care provider about your asthma care plan and if you need to make changes.

Most quick-relief medicines are short-acting beta agonists, anticholinergics or a combination of the two. Short-acting beta agonists (SABAs) relax the smooth muscles around the airways and decrease swelling that blocks airflow. Anticholinergics work similarly to SABAs but are slower. Always work with your doctor to find which medicine is best for you.

quick-relief medicines

April Behounek of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (overall #14 on Asthma Capitals), uses long-term control medicines to help prevent and control her asthma symptoms. Every day she uses her controller inhaler, both in the morning and at night, and takes an oral allergy medicine. But there is rarely a day that April does not use her quick-relief inhaler, which is a sign that her asthma is not well-controlled. She suspects this is due to the air pollution in her area because she has asthma flare-ups when she exercises outside in her city. Her asthma doesn't flare as badly when she goes to areas where there is cleaner air.

Rule of twos

Inhalers (also called puffers)

There are two types of inhalers: metered dose inhaler (MDI) and dry powder inhaler (DPI).

  • Metered dose inhalers use an aerosol canister inserted into a plastic mouthpiece to deliver a short burst of medicine.
  • Dry powder inhalers deliver medicine as a dry powder using a special inhaler. 

For inhalers to work well, you must use them correctly. But more than half of all people who use inhalers don’t use them properly. Ask your doctor or nurse to watch you and check your technique.