Anti-inflammatory Asthma Treatments

Anti-inflammatories treat inflammation — the quiet part of asthma that you cannot see, feel or hear. Just as daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste protects against dental cavities, anti-inflammatory medications protect against the damaging effects of airway inflammation.

After using an anti-inflammatory medication, you won’t feel different and you won’t see any immediate changes. That’s because it takes time for airway swelling to subside and the mucus and excess fluid to clear out of the airways. These medications usually need to be taken every day to prevent symptoms and attacks from occurring.

Anti-inflammatories are sometimes called “controllers,” but like “rescue” this is a misleading and incorrect term. Every asthma medication “controls” symptoms in one way or another. Your Asthma Action Plan will tell you exactly when and why to take your different medications. Learn and use the correct names.

  • Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective long-term therapy available for asthma. Taken as prescribed, they reduce and prevent fluid and excess mucus and swelling in the airways. Because it is inhaled, the medicine goes directly to the inflamed airways.

    Patients are often tempted to stop using inhaled corticosteroids or other medications when they are symptom-free and appear to be well.  However, you would never stop brushing your teeth just because you have no cavities!

    • beclomethasone (QVAR®), budesonide (Pulmicort®), ciclesonide (Alvesco®), flunisolide (Aerospan®), fluticasone (Flovent®), mometasone (Asmanex®)

  • Oral corticosteroids may be used to treat acute asthma episodes or severe asthma. They are usually prescribed only for short periods of time (5-14 days) to prevent unwanted side effects and dosage must be gradually reduced.

    • prednisone, prednisolone (Prelone, Pediapred™, Orapred™)

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as mast cell stabilizers help reduce inflammation, prevent exercise-induced asthma and decrease allergic cell reactions.

    • cromolyn sodium, nedocromil sodium

Combination medications combine an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid with a long-acting bronchodilator and are usually prescribed as daily medications. These medications should NOT be used to treat sudden or severe symptoms of asthma. Take no more than once every 12 hours.

  • fluticasone/salmeterol (Advair®), budesonide/formoterol (Symbicort®), fluticasone/vilanterol (Breo®), mometasone/formoterol (Dulera®)