Asthma Medicines and Devices

Medicines used to treat acute asthma

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Find out more


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Find out more

Asthma Medicines and Devices – Inhalers, puffers, steroids, asthma medications

There have been some recent changes to asthma medication and treatment options.

It is important that you ask your doctor about these changes at your next asthma review to know your asthma options.

These changes are within the updated version of the National Asthma Council Australia’s Australian Asthma Handbook (Version 2.1 2020), additionally, you can access our quick consumer guide to the Handbook changes here.

The Handbook sets the best practice guidelines for primary healthcare professionals to diagnose and manage asthma. For a person with asthma, the guidelines set the standard of medical care and treatments they can expect in the hospital, at their doctor, and at the pharmacy.

If you have further questions about asthma medicines or devices, we encourage you to speak with your treating health professional or call an Asthma Educator on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).

There is a range of medicines and devices available for people with asthma to manage and control their symptoms.

The most common types of asthma medicines are preventers and relievers.

Some asthma medications are taken by breathing them in through an inhaler or nebulizer so they go directly into the lungs and airways. Other medications are in a pill or liquid form.


Many asthma preventer medicines contain corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are the best anti-inflammatory medicine for the type of inflammation involved in asthma. They usually improve asthma control, which means you go to hospital less, have a better quality of life and better lung function.

Corticosteroids are not the same as body-building steroids. The corticosteroid in the inhaled preventers is similar to substances produced in your own body, it’s just being provided in higher amounts and directed to where they need to work, via the inhaler, into your lungs.

Inhaled corticosteroids are not as strong as the corticosteroid tablets and liquids – those are usually only used when you are really unwell.


Relievers are fast-acting medication that reduces the symptoms of asthma. They act to relax the muscles around the airways and open them up, allowing more air flow. Relievers work within minutes and their effects last for up to four hours.

Everyone with asthma should have a reliever medicine to use whenever they experience symptoms. But if 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.

Relievers are also used in asthma first aid. You should carry your reliever medicine at all times in case of asthma symptoms.

On the Asthma Australia medication pages we’ve provided information about medications most commonly prescribed for asthma. If your medication isn’t listed here, it might be that it’s not commonly prescribed for asthma. Call or email 1800 ASTHMA to get more information about asthma medicines from an Asthma Educator, or you can also ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain more.

When you get your prescription filled your pharmacist may ask you if you would like a generic version of your medication. Generic medicine contains the same active ingredients as the name-brand medicine. It is important to speak with your doctor and pharmacist about whether a generic version of your medication is appropriate for you based on the dosage and device.

For more information on generic medicines click here.