Ask the Chemist

How can I control my asthma symptoms?

With the use of medicines, avoiding your triggers and the latest lifestyle advice, people with asthma can successfully control their condition and get on with enjoying their lives. At your next asthma review, ask your doctor or asthma nurse for a personal asthma action plan to help you know how to take control of your asthma.

The medicines prescribed to you will depend on the severity of your asthma symptoms and dose may vary over time. The aim is to be taking the smallest dose of medicine you need to keep you feeling well. For more information please discuss your asthma medicines with your pharmacist.

Asthma Medicines

The majority of people with asthma are treated with inhalers. Inhalers deliver a small amount of medicine directly to the airways.


Reliever Inhalers
Relievers are used ‘as needed’ to give rapid relief from symptoms but do not treat the underlying inflammation. If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than three times per week, you may also need a preventer inhaler to keep your asthma under control.


Preventer inhalers
Preventers help to control the swelling and inflammation in the airways and help prevent asthma attacks. However, not everyone with asthma will need a preventer. The protective effect of preventers builds up over time, so if you are prescribed one, it is important that you take it every day, even if you are feeling well.

These inhalers usually contain a form of steroid. These steroids are very safe and are not addictive. However, they can sometimes give some people a sore tongue, sore throat or mouth infection. You can help avoid these side effects by brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth, or gargling with water and spitting it out immediately after you have used your preventer inhaler. Using a spacer device will also help you reduce the risk of these side effects.


What is a spacer?
A spacer is a large chamber, which is fitted to an inhaler. Instead of inhaling directly from an inhaler, a dose from the inhaler is sprayed into the spacer and then you inhale from the other end of the spacer, through a mouthpiece or a mask. Spacers make your inhaler easier to use and more effective. They also reduce the risk of side effects.


Do I use my inhaler correctly?
There are a variety of inhaler devices available, which use different techniques. You should be able to easily use the device you have been prescribed so that every dose you take gives you the most benefit.

Other Treatments and 'Add-on' Therapies

Long-acting relievers
These inhalers help to relax narrow airways and are used in addition to your preventer. They go on acting for a longer time than normal relievers and are usually used twice a day.


Combination therapies
There are now combination inhalers available that bring together an inhaled steroid with a long-acting reliever.


Preventer tablets
If asthma symptoms are not controlled by a regular inhaled preventer and ‘as needed’ reliever, a daily tablet treatment may be prescribed. These do not contain steroids and are taken along with your preventer inhaler.


Steroid tablets
If asthma symptoms become difficult to control, the doctor may give you a short course of steroid tablets. These tablets work quickly to reduce inflammation in your airways.

Please make sure that you follow the instructions carefully and finish the prescribed course of the tablets. Ask the pharmacist for a blue steroid card, which contains essential information for you and alerts any health professional treating you that you are taking steroids.