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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Asthma: Overuse of Quick-Relief Medicines
Medicines for quick relief of the narrowed
bronchial tubes caused by
asthma include short-acting beta2-agonists. These
medicines relieve sudden increases of symptoms (asthma attacks)
quickly. But overuse may be harmful.
Overuse of short-acting
beta2-agonists has been associated with worsening asthma and increased risk of
death.1 People who have severe asthma usually are the ones
at greatest risk for illness and death from asthma. They may be taking higher
doses of short-acting beta2-agonists to control their symptoms instead of
increasing the use of anti-inflammatory medicine such as inhaled
People who overuse
short-acting beta2-agonists may feel their asthma is under control when, in
fact, inflammation in the airways is becoming worse, putting them in danger of
a severe, life-threatening attack (status asthmaticus).
In general, you may need more long-term treatment if you are
using short-acting beta2-agonists on more than 2 days a week (except before
exercise). Talk to your doctor if you are using your quick-relief medicine this
often. Frequent use of quick-relief medicines may mean that your symptoms and
inflammation are not well controlled.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2007). Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma. Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/asthgdln.htm.
March 17, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Lora J. Stewart, MD, MPH - Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics
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