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rescue medications how they work

Asthma quick-relief medicines work fast to control asthma symptoms. You take them when you are coughing, wheezing, having trouble breathing, or having an asthma attack. They are also called rescue drugs.

These medicines are called “bronchodilators” because they open (dilate) and help relax the muscles of your airways (bronchi).

You and your doctor can make a plan for the quick-relief drugs that work for you. This plan will include when you should take them and how much you should take.

Plan ahead. Make sure you do not run out. Take enough with you when you travel.

Short-acting beta-agonists are the most common quick-relief drugs for treating asthma attacks.

They can be used just before exercising to help prevent asthma symptoms caused by exercise. They work by relaxing the muscles of your airways, and this lets you breathe better during an attack.

Tell your doctor if you are using quick-relief medicines twice a week or more to control your asthma symptoms. Your asthma may not be under control, and your doctor may need to change your dose of daily control drugs.

Some quick-relief asthma medicines include:

Albuterol (ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA)
Levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA)
Metaproterenol
Terbutaline
Quick-relief asthma medicines may cause these side effects:

Anxiety.
Tremor (your hand or another part of your body may shake).
Restlessness.
Headache.
Fast and irregular heartbeats. Call your doctor right away if you have this side effect.