Asthma is all about inflammation. That's why many medications doctors prescribe to treat this chronic inflammation of the body's airways are anti-inflammatory drugs.

In the United States, about 23 million people have been diagnosed with asthma; nearly 7 million of them are children younger than age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Control the inflammation and you can better manage this respiratory disease marked by periods of breathlessness and wheezing. Fail to control the inflammation and you can expect more serious illness--even death.

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms, which can vary widely from patient to patient. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), treatment usually is broken down into two main groups:

  • "Rescue" medications that relieve immediate symptoms

  • Medications that help to control the ongoing problem

One of the mainstays in controlling chronic asthma is the potent anti-inflammatory, corticosteroid family of medications, which help prevent symptoms from occurring. These can be taken by mouth or inhaled. These medications work directly to fight inflammation that can obstruct an airway. People on corticosteroids need to remain in close contact with their doctor because this class of medications may cause numerous side effects. However, the inhaled corticosteroids are associated with significantly lower incidence of such side effects and deliver the anti-inflammatory medication to the target tissue.

Other medications that help to control asthma include bronchodilators, medications that dilate or open narrowed breathing passages, and newer drugs that interrupt the inflammatory process.

Bronchodilators usually serve as "rescue medications" for coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and breathing problems that many people with asthma suffer. They work by opening the air passages, making breathing easier.

Medical Reviewer: [Daphne Pierce-Smith, RN, MSN, FNP, CCRC, Fincannon, Joy RN MN, Horan, Richard Francis MD, Lee Jenkins] Last Annual Review Date: 2009-10-11T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: © Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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Asthma is more common in boys than girls.