Relievers are fast-acting medications that reduce asthma symptoms quickly. They relax the muscles around the outside of the airways. Relievers start to work within minutes and can last for up to four hours.
How do relievers help asthma?
Reliever medication is important and does play a key part in asthma management. Everyone with asthma should have a reliever medicine handy so they can use it whenever they experience asthma symptoms. The medication works by quickly relaxing tightened airway muscles, opening the airways up so you can breathe more easily. Their ability to provide quick relief of asthma symptoms means you should always carry it with you. It is your vital Asthma First Aid medication.
For years, many people have seen their usual reliever as convenient, safe, and effective. When they get symptoms, they use their reliever, get relief, and associate that with good asthma management. But we know that people who rely too much on their reliever have a higher risk of very severe and even life-threatening asthma attacks. Treatment that doesn’t address airway inflammation is potentially hazardous. Anyone with a diagnosis of asthma should be discussing the right treatment for them, with their doctor, even if symptoms are mild and infrequent.
How often are you using your reliever?
An Australian study[i] surveyed almost 2700 people with asthma and found nearly 40% only used a blue reliever puffer, treating their obvious symptoms but not the underlying cause and 1 in 4 of these people needed urgent treatment for their condition in the previous year.
Reliever only treatment means you are only addressing your immediate asthma symptoms, and not dealing with what is causing them (the underlying inflammation). This means your airways are more likely to react to triggers and are not protected from the increased risk of an asthma attack.
Frequent use of your reliever (more than 2 times per month) is a sign of poorly controlled asthma and using 3 or more blue/grey reliever canisters in 12 months is associated with an increased risk of an asthma attack.
How controlled is your asthma?
Poor asthma control (frequent symptoms and/or attacks) is a common problem in both adults and children. Research has found that for almost half of people with asthma, there is a gap between the potential control of their asthma symptoms and the level of control they currently experience. [ii]
What does good asthma control look like?
Most people with asthma can achieve good asthma control. This means that you:
- Have asthma symptoms on no more than two days a week
- Need your reliever no more than two days a week, or even not at all
- Experience no limitations on your activities due to asthma and
- Don’t get any asthma symptoms at night or when you wake up
Having good asthma control is more than relying on your reliever medication.
Even if you think you are in control of your asthma, ask yourself, “Am I needing my reliever on more than 2 days a week?” If the answer is yes, your asthma might be controlling you.
Take the Asthma Control Test today to determine your level of asthma control and see your GP for an asthma review.
[i] Reddel HK, Ampon RD, Sawyer SM, et al. Risks associated with managing asthma without a preventer: urgent healthcare, poor asthma control and over-the-counter reliever use in a cross-sectional population survey. BMJ Open 2017;7:e016688. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2017-016688