Asthma Treatments

You would have a tough time finding something more scary than not being able to breathe. We can take it for granted but nothing is more important than air. Anymore than a few minutes without it and it’s all over. This certainly goes a long way towards explaining why situations where oxygen is withheld can spark such terror in us. Whether it’s being held under water, being at the bottom of a pile on with a group of friends as a kid or choking on some food, these experiences can leave us shaken and traumatised. Asthma attacks are often described as instilling a similar sense of fear and panic in those who suffer from them. Comments like, “It feels like I’m breathing through a squished straw” and “I can’t do anything but focus on getting oxygen into my lungs,” provide a sense of just how terrifying an asthma attack can be for those who suffer from asthma. Depending on the triggers, this kind of suffocating sensation can come on swiftly and can vary greatly in severity. Whilst asthma can’t be cured, thankfully its symptoms can be effectively controlled. 

So, what’s actually going on in the body when you’re having an asthma attack? An asthma attack is your airways narrowing and swelling, often coinciding with the production of extra mucus. As a result, breathing can become especially difficult, with coughing and wheezing often also being triggered. For some people suffering from asthma, it is no more than a minor nuisance. However, for many sufferers it can be a life altering condition, affecting many daily activities and posing the risk of life threatening attacks. As anyone who suffers from severe asthma will tell you, it’s no joke. 

Obviously, if your asthma is severe then it will be highly obvious but asthma can come on at different stages of life and can be triggered by a multitude of things. Here are some specific symptoms to look out for:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain 
  • Wheezing when exhaling. This is particularly common among children with asthma
  • Trouble sleeping due to difficulty breathing
  • Coughing or wheezing that becomes increasingly severe when faced with a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or your child seems to be presenting with them, it can be helpful to keep an eye on what might be triggering the asthma. The typical potential triggers include:

  • Exercise-induced asthma

This can be heightened when the air is cold or dry. Obviously exercise is critical for physical and mental wellbeing so it is important to seek help in managing your asthma so as not be entirely restricted from physical activities. 

  • Occupational asthma

Exposure to certain chemicals, gasses and dust can kick off asthma for people.

  • Allergy-induced asthma

Airborne substances commonly related to allergies, such as; pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste, skin particles and pet dander, can all set off asthma. 

Being aware of these triggers can help you avoid putting yourself at risk but can also be helpful when establishing a plan with your doctor on how to best treat your asthma. So, why go and see a doctor? Well, there are a few important reasons:

  1. Avoid potential lung damage 

If left untreated, asthma can permanently damage your lungs and result in the condition actually progressively getting worse. Early treatment is highly beneficial.

  1. Keep it under control 

A good plan mapped out with your doctor can help you enjoy a higher quality of life with less interruptions from symptoms. 

  1. Monitor to ensure it’s not getting worse

If your typical approach to asthma appears to be becoming less effective in managing the symptoms then it is important to pick this up early and alter your approach. There is also the chance that your condition may improve and medication may need to be altered in this situation. 

Through consultation with your doctor you can establish a detailed plan to manage your symptoms and prevent attacks. As avoidance of attacks is key, avoiding triggers is crucial but thankfully there are highly effective medications available to treat asthma, with many of these available over-the-counter from a pharmacy

The two main types of asthma medicines are known as relievers and preventers. Both of these typically come in the form of inhalers or puffers. 


Absolutely everybody who is aware that they have asthma should have a reliever, otherwise known as a puffer, to use when they find themselves experiencing symptoms. As mentioned before, the symptoms can often be quite terrifying so having a reliever at hand is key. 

In Australia, almost all relievers are available from the pharmacy without a prescription. Having said this, relievers should only be used if actually suffering symptoms, unless otherwise directed by your doctor to use as a preventative before exercise, as overuse can cause side effects like shaking, trembling and an increased heart rate. Working with a doctor to plan and monitor your asthma can mean that you get the most out of your purchases at the pharmacy.  


To effectively manage asthma it is likely that a low dose of an ‘inhaled corticosteroid’ will need to be taken each day, with the reliever being used to treat actual symptoms when they flare up. Preventers will usually be prescribed for adults suffering from asthma when: 

  • They have had asthma symptoms twice or more in the last month
  • They are regularly awoken from sleep by asthma symptoms
  • An asthma attacks severity has been enough to require urgent medical treatment, such as a trip to the emergency department of a hospital

Preventative medicines cannot be bought over-the-counter from the pharmacy and will require a prescription. If they are necessary then it will be important that you are working with a doctor to manage your asthma. 

With air being our most precious resource, it’s important to have the right tools to ensure that your access to it is not impeded by asthma. With a good management plan and the right medication there is no need to feel like you’re breathing through a squished straw. Take control of your body and breathing by consulting your doctor regularly on how best to treat your asthma. 



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