What is the role of drug treatment for asthma?

Updated: Oct 07, 2019
  • Author: John J Oppenheimer, MD; Chief Editor: Michael A Kaliner, MD  more...
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The most important facet of medical care is the use of anti-inflammatory medications (usually, inhaled corticosteroids) in patients at all stages beyond mild intermittent asthma. Even the use of such medications in children improves many outcomes, including quality of life, although it does not, as had initially been hypothesized, appear to affect the natural history of the disease. [22, 23, 24, 25]  First-line agents for allergic rhinitis include intranasal corticosteroids and antihistamines. Long-acting oral antihistamine agents and intranasal antihistamine sprays are available. Additionally, blocking the leukotriene pathway with agents like montelukast may be beneficial in the management of allergic rhinitis and asthma.

These medications do not appear to cause significant adverse effects at moderate doses (eg, on growth, bone density, eyes, adrenal sufficiency). Unfortunately, in some series, fewer than half of the patients admitted to the hospital for asthma were receiving or taking their recommended anti-inflammatory medications (this was likely an issue of adherence as well as prescription).

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