Asthma inhalers, medicines and treatments

Inhalers, medicines and treatments help relieve symptoms and cut the risk of asthma attacks.

Asthma inhalers, medicines and treatments

This section will answer questions you may have about your asthma medicines: how they work, the best way to take them, and how to weigh up the pros and cons of taking them so you feel more confident.

If you’re looking for information for a child with asthma, please visit our section about your child’s asthma inhalers and medicines

Although there's no cure for asthma, there are now lots of incredibly effective medicines to help relieve the symptoms and cut the risk of asthma attacks. You and your GP, asthma nurse and/or consultant can work together using these medicines to make sure your asthma is as well managed as possible. The aim is for you to stay symptom-free so that your condition doesn't stop you from getting on with life.

If you're among the five per cent of people with asthma who have severe asthma, the usual medicines are less likely to work for you and your asthma may be harder to manage. You may need more complex treatments to help keep your symptoms under control. But your consultant will work with you to find the treatments that best manage your asthma. 

How asthma medicines save lives

Since the use of inhalers became more widespread in the 1970s, numbers of deaths from asthma have fallen. But tragically, three people in the UK still die every day because of asthma - it is a serious condition that needs proper care. An estimated two-thirds of these deaths from asthma are preventable. An estimated 75 per cent of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable too. Taking your asthma medicines as prescribed and discussed with your GP or asthma nurse is the best way to prevent asthma symptoms and a potentially life threatening asthma attack.

Taking your medicines properly, so they can work properly

The medicines you've been prescribed to treat your asthma can't work unless you take them as they are meant to be taken. There are preventer inhalers to help prevent symptoms and reduce the risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack. There are reliever inhalers to help manage symptoms. There are various medicines to treat more severe symptoms and asthma attacks. Whatever combination your doctor prescribes for you it's so important that you play your part in helping them to work by taking them in the right dose, in the right way, at the right time(s).

Take our survey to tell us about your inhalers and how you use them. 

Ease your worries about asthma medicines

We know from the calls we get to our helpline that many people with asthma have concerns about taking their medicines. For some people, taking medicines every day can feel complicated. It might feel strange to be asked to take a preventer medicine every day, even when you feel well. You may be finding that getting into a routine to take an inhaler every day is tricky when life can be busy and you're juggling family, work, or feeling unwell. Or you may worry about possible side effects from taking medicines for a long-term condition.

Whatever your worries, the information in this section is designed to reassure you by answering any questions you may have about your asthma medicines: how they work, why you need to take them, the best way to take them, how to deal with any potential side effects and how to weigh up the pros and cons of taking them so you feel more confident.

Did you know, for instance, that research shows most people who take their asthma medicines properly have very few side effects? And that not taking everyday medicines as prescribed increases the chance of you needing higher doses of steroid treatment later on?

We've got a useful round up of common concerns about taking medicines here. If you have any questions we haven't answered or you're worried about anything, you can speak to your hospital doctor, GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist at any time. You can also speak to an experienced asthma nurse specialist by calling our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Mon-Fri; 9am-5pm).

Last updated May 2016

Next review due May 2019