There are some drugs that help with the symptoms of asthma, and these usually fall into two categories: reliever drugs and preventer drugs. In addition to the prescription approach some believe that a more homeopathic approach works, with treatments from accupuncture to aromatherapy having their fans. These alternative and complementary therapies include herbal and traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy and dietary supplementation with vitamins, minerals or fish oils. Physical therapies include acupuncture, Alexander technique, manual therapy including massage and spinal manipulation, and physical exercise training. There has been a lot of media coverage of breathing exercises including yoga and the Buteyko method. Although many scores of clinical trials have been carried out there is insufficient evidence to recommend any of these therapies. Asthma experts recommend that people with asthma should not be treated solely with any alternative therapy.
However keep in mind that recent studies show that the placebo effect is so strong that even if these natural therapies don’t work (and they may) if you think they work then they will! Just being fit and healthy, at a healthy weight will help.
Of the medical treatments here are some of the relievers; these are drugs that relax the muscles in the airways, making the airways (bronchi and bronchioles) open wider (dilate). For this reason, these drugs are also called bronchodilators. They are taken immediately when you have asthma symptoms to help make it easier to breathe again. Everyone with asthma should have a reliever inhaler. Beta2 agonists are one type of bronchodilator drug, and the most commonly used. They act on beta2 receptors in the lung tissue. When beta receptors are stimulated they make the muscle relax, the airways widen, bringing relief of symptoms. Corticosteroids(sometimes shortened to steroids) are the most commonly used preventers. Drugs include beclametasone (brand names include AeroBec, Asmabec, Beclazone, Cecodisk, Clenil Modulite and Qvar) and budesonide (brand names include Novolizer, Pulmicort). Steroids work by reducing the inflammation in your airways. Once the inflammation has gone, your airways are much less hyper-sensitive and less likely to become narrow and cause asthma symptoms. Steriods can cause a range of side effects, especially over long-term use. Your doctor or nurse will discuss with you the need to balance the control of your asthma with the risk of side effects, and how to keep the side effects to a minimum. Unlike bronchodilators, steroids take some time to reduce inflammation so you need to use your preventer inhaler for seven to 14 days before you gain the full benefit. Once your preventer has reduced the inflammation in your airways, you won’t usually need to use your reliever inhalers. Leukotriene receptor antagonists (sometimes shorted to LTRAs), including montelukast (brand name Singulair) and zafirlukast (brand name Accolate), are another type of preventer tablet. They are often used in children. They work by blocking one of the chemicals released when you come into contact with an asthma trigger, so can be particularly effective if asthma is triggered by exercise or allergies. They are generally taken once or twice a day, even when you are feeling well.