Shortness of breath? Wheezing? A person who suffers from bronchial asthma has very sensitive air passages (bronchi) that may be affected by a number of different things called triggers. These triggers include food, medicine, pets, smoke or other irritants in the air, the common cold, and exercise. When exposed to a trigger, a person may experience shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or wheezing. Over-the-counter (OTC) asthma medicines, also known as bronchodilators, are used to help relieve breathing problems caused by bronchial asthma.
Asthma medicines, like all OTC medicines, contain certain active ingredients that make them work in the human body. The product’s active ingredients, including how much of a substance is in each dose, are listed first on the Drug Facts label.
Bronchodilator asthma medicines work by opening air passages that are narrowed during asthma attacks. Asthma medicine active ingredients are available in tablet form and are taken by mouth. Asthma medicine active ingredients include:
Asthma medicines may also contain other active ingredients to relieve additional conditions, such as chest congestion and the build-up of mucus.
Asthma Medicine Safe Use Tips
- Always read the Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine, including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product
- You should not use an asthma medicine unless a healthcare provider has told you that you have asthma. Asthma is a serious disease that should be properly diagnosed and monitored by a healthcare provider. If you have asthma, talk to your healthcare provider about available treatment options and ways to prevent attacks
- You should not use an asthma medicine more frequently or at a higher dose than is directed on the label unless you are under the supervision of a healthcare provider
- You should not use an OTC asthma medicine if you have ever been hospitalized for asthma unless you are under the supervision of a healthcare provider
- You should not use an OTC asthma medicine if you are taking a prescription asthma drug unless instructed to do so by a healthcare provider
- Asthma medicines may interact with certain prescription medicines. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are on a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or a prescription drug for depression, a psychiatric or emotional condition, or Parkinson’s disease
- Certain individuals may experience nervousness, tremors, sleeplessness, nausea, or loss of appetite. If you are using an asthma medicine and have any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider
- Talk to a healthcare provider before using an asthma medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
Safe Use Tips for Parents
All of the tips for the safe use of OTC asthma medicines also apply to children. But as with most OTCs, there are some additional considerations when it comes to treating kids.
- Do not use an OTC asthma medicine on any child unless a healthcare provider has diagnosed your child with asthma and a proper course of treatment has been determined
- Children should always be supervised when using any asthma medicine
- Never use any allergy medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy
- Do not use an OTC asthma medicine containing ephedrine with children under the age of 12