Why are controllers important?



The asthma attack was a scary event and the doctor has prescribed a bronchodilator and a controller for you to take.  The bronchodilator is for your quick relief as needed and the controller is to be taken daily.  You start out being very attentive to the instructions but then realize that the controller ‘makes no difference’ when you take it but you can tell the quick relief medication makes you feel better – so you no longer take the controller.  All goes well until the there is an asthma attack that is very scary and your quick reliever is not working like it had in the past, what is going on?

The short answer is you should have been taking your controller.

The bigger problem is that you did not have enough information to understand why you were prescribed two medications and what each one does.  Making decisions with little to no information does not offer options of best benefit.  So let’s start at the basics – what each medicine does and how it is in your benefit to use it.

Bronchodilators are designed to open up the airway quickly.  They work within 20 minutes and the relief should last four (4) hours or longer.  If you need the medication again before the four hours are up – take the reliever and call / see your doctor as soon as possible. Always refer to your Asthma Action Plan.

Controllers are medications that minimize the swelling and inflammation that is present in your airways.  You cannot feel the swelling or inflammation until it becomes significant, at which time the quick relief medication will do little (or nothing) to improve your breathing.

The controller is a low dose of steroids, much smaller of a dose than you get in the liquid or tablet form.  It is the safer way to take steroids because it goes directly to the swelling and inflammation in your airways and does not affect other organs like the oral steroids do.  You know the controller is working because you are using your quick relief inhaler less than two times a week for signs and symptoms.  If you are using it more than that, for signs and symptoms, then make your doctor aware of this information.

Honest conversations and understanding asthma are two ways for you to be in control of your asthma – not have asthma control you.



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