Your asthma medicine
Click on the asthma medicine below to learn more about it:
This medicine is a ‘preventer’. Preventer medicines make the airways less sensitive, reduce redness and swelling and help to dry up mucus. Preventers need to be taken every day to reduce symptoms and asthma attacks, and it may take a few weeks before they reach their full effect.
Guidelines suggest that your doctor prescribe a preventer medicine for you if:
- you have had asthma symptoms more than once in the last month,
- you have woken because of symptoms in the last month, or
- you have had a flare up in the last year
In children, preventers are usually used only for those with more frequent symptoms and episodes of asthma.
Alvesco, Breo, Flixotide, Flutiform, Pulmicort, Qvar, Seretide, Symbicort
These inhalers all contain medicines called inhaled corticosteroid, which are the most common preventers and they can help airway cells repair and return to normal.
Possible side effects include a sore throat, hoarse voice and/or oral thrush.
These may be reduced by using a puffer and spacer, and rinsing your mouth and spitting after each dose.
Montelukast & Singulair
are tablets of non-steroid preventer medicine that are often used to help exercise-related asthma, and are more commonly used in children.
Side effects are uncommon, but may include muscle or joint pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, headache and/or mood changes.
Montelukast Fact Sheet (PDF 253KB)
Intal & Tilade
are non-steroid preventer inhalers that work by reducing histamine (which sets off inflammation) in the airways. They are most often used in mild allergic and exercise-related asthma. They are quite sticky and can block the inhaler, so it is very important to wash your inhaler frequently to make sure you are getting the full dose.
Side effects are rare, but may include headache, throat irritation, nausea, cough. Around 20% of people find Tilade has an unpleasant taste.
This medicine is a ‘reliever’. Relievers are fast acting medicines that give quick relief of asthma symptoms. They relax the muscle around the outside of the airway to open it up. They start to work within minutes and last for up to 4 hours.
Everyone with asthma should have a reliever medicine so they can use it whenever they have asthma symptoms. But if you find you need to use your reliever more than two days per week (other than before exercise) your asthma may not be well controlled and you should see your doctor.
This type of medicine is also used in asthma first aid. You should carry your reliever medicine at all times in case of asthma symptoms.
Possible side effects include increased heart rate, shaking hands, and/or slight anxiety. These effects generally pass quickly, and are less likely to happen once you have used the medicine a few times. They may occur when you take higher doses of the medicine, such as during an asthma emergency.
This medicine is used for treating a sudden or severe asthma flare-up or attack. It is a corticosteroid tablet or liquid that is taken for a short time (usually 3-5 days in children; 5-7 days in adults) to reduce the inflammation in the airways.
Side effects are unlikely if you are only having short, occasional courses of this medicine. Longer term or very frequent use can lead to side effects, and you should talk with your doctor about these.
Xolair and Nucala
These treatments come in the form of an injectable medication (e.g. Omalizumab also known as Xolair or
Mepolizumab also known as Nucala) that can help some people with
difficult-to-treat or severe asthma by decreasing the allergic and inflammatory response in the
These treatments are approved in Australia, for some adults and children with moderate-to-severe allergic asthma that is not controlled by maximal preventer therapy (some are subsidized on the PBS if certain strict criteria are met).
Severe asthma treatments are prescribed by a respiratory physician or
other specialist in the field and given every 2-4 weeks.
This treatment is a type of preventer medication – so it works to reduce inflammation (swelling and sensitivity) in the airways by targeting certain immune and inflammatory proteins and reduce asthma symptoms and flare ups.
Possible side effects include bruising, redness or pain at the injection site, mild skin rash,
headache, tiredness, hair loss, joint pain, joint swelling, muscle pain.
Up to 2 in every 1,000 people may have a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to this treatment, so patients are usually asked to stay in the hospital clinic for an hour or more after the injection.
If your medicine isn’t listed in the table, it might be that it’s not commonly prescribed for asthma. Call or email the 1800 ASTHMA Helpline to get more information on the less common medicines or you can also ask your doctor to explain more about your medicine.