Is your Asthma or COPD restricting you from leading an unrestricted and fulfilling life? The treatments available for asthma a are effective for most people.
How is COPD treated?
There is no cure for COPD but the main way for people with COPD to help themselves is to stop smoking if they do. Stopping smoking at an early stage of the disease can make a huge difference. If COPD remains mild, no other treatments may be needed.
However if your COPD is severe, you may be prescribed an inhaler, either one to help relax the muscles in your airways so they open up, and a steroid inhaler to help reduce the inflammation in your airways.
To get the most benefit from your inhalers, it is important you use them correctly. A significant proportion of patients does not use them properly. If you want to check you, technique come in to see our pharmacist.
Products used to treat COPD
Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.
When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower, and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Sometimes, sticky mucus or phlegm builds up, which can further narrow the airways.
These reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated – making it difficult to breathe and leading to symptoms of asthma.
It’s difficult to say what causes asthma
What we do know is that you’re more likely to develop asthma if you have a family history of asthma, eczema or allergies. It’s probable that this family history, combined with certain environmental factors, influences whether or not someone develops asthma.
Symptoms of asthma
The usual symptoms of asthma are:
- shortness of breath
- tightness in the chest.
Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. Some people experience them from time to time; a few people may experience these symptoms all the time.
Preventers control the swelling and inflammation in the airways, stopping them from being so sensitive and reducing the risk of severe attacks.
Not everyone with asthma will be prescribed preventer medicine.
The protective effect builds up over a period so they need to be taken every day (usually morning and evening) even when you are feeling well.
Preventers do not give immediate or quick relief when you are breathless but instead they reduce long-term inflammation. Preventer inhalers usually contain a low dose of steroid medicine.
There are several kinds of preventers, but they all work in the same way. You will be started on an appropriate level of treatment to get your symptoms under control; once this has been achieved the treatment will be reduced to the lowest possible dose.
Preventers are usually brown, red or orange inhalers.
When are preventers prescribed?
You should be prescribed a preventer if you:
- are breathless, cough or have a tight chest doing everyday activities three or more times a week?
- need to use your reliever inhaler three times a week or more
- have sleep disturbed by a cough or chest tightness each week
- have bad attacks of breathlessness when you have a chest infection or are in a smoky atmosphere.
Example of preventers
What will my preventer do for me?
As the protective effect of the steroid builds up, you will be less likely to have asthma attacks. You will be less liable to be breathless during the day and night, and you will not need to use your reliever inhaler as often.
Why is my reliever inhaler not enough?
Reliever inhalers relax your airways, which help breathlessness, but they do not remove airway inflammation. As well as the relaxing effect of a reliever inhaler, you need the anti-inflammatory effect of a preventer. Once airways are less inflamed, they are less sensitive to triggers such as cigarette smoke and viral infections.
How long will it take to work?
It may take up to 14 days for your preventer medicine to reduce inflammation and mucus in your airways.
Don’t stop taking it if nothing much happens for a few days. Gradually, chest tightness, night cough and gasp should become less. You should notice that you need to use less reliever inhaler.
When should I see my doctor or asthma nurse again?
Your doctor or asthma nurse will probably want to see you within a month after you start using a preventer. They will be able to adjust your medicines if your symptoms are not decreasing. Or, if your preventer works well for you, you may be able to cut down on the number of puffs you take each day, or the strength of the medicine.
Do I need to take my preventer every day?
Yes. To work properly, preventers need to be taken every day, usually morning and evening, even if you are feeling well. The protective effect of the preventer medicine builds up gradually.
Once this protection is working, occasionally forgetting to take your inhaler will usually not have harmful effects. But ignoring or stopping for several days at a time will mean your protection begins to disappear. If you stop using your preventer, chest infections are more likely to bring on an asthma attack.
Will my preventer medicines change?
Yes. It is likely that you will have to change your medications from time to time.
If your asthma gets terrible, you may need to increase the dose you take. Or you may need a short course of steroid tablets as well as your regular preventer.
When you begin taking preventer medicine, your doctor or asthma nurse may want you to take a higher dose each day. This will get your asthma under control quickly. As your symptoms improve, you may be able to take fewer daily puffs or move to a lower strength inhaler.
Everyone with asthma should have a reliever inhaler. Reliever inhalers are usually blue.
Relievers are medicines that are taken immediately to relieve asthma symptoms. They quickly relax the muscles surrounding the narrowed airways. This allows the airways to open wider, making it easier to breathe again.
Relievers are essential in treating asthma attacks. You should take a dose of reliever inhaler when you are having asthma symptoms. If you are using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week, your asthma may not be well controlled, and you should go back to your doctor or asthma nurse and have your symptoms reviewed.
Click here for your Asthma Action Plan
All treatments are available from Asset Chemist. You can speak to our pharmacist for advice.