Take control of asthma

Are you living with asthma?

Did you know that your pharmacist can help you better manage it, by adjusting and optimizing your medication and helping you develop an effective treatment plan? For additional information about asthma management, read the following.

Are you among the thousands of Canadians who struggle with asthma symptoms? Don't worry! Asthma can be controlled.


A brief overview of asthma

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease affecting the bronchi, the small tubes that carry air to the lungs. Typical effects include:

  • swelling of the airway lining (inflammation)
  • production of mucus inside the bronchi, and
  • spasms and contractions of the small muscles surrounding the bronchi

These changes lead to the constriction (narrowing) of the airways, making air circulation more difficult. The more significant the inflammation of the bronchi, the more the airways tend to constrict and narrow. People with uncontrolled asthma typically find it difficult to breathe and often have a cough.



Asthma control hinges on a few fundamental principles:

  • Avoid asthma triggers (e.g., pollen, dust mites, animal hair, tobacco smoke, stress, intense emotions, chemicals, etc.).
  • Take the appropriate medications to prevent inflammation, mucus production, and airway constriction.
  • Prevent damage to airways caused by asthma.



Medications are generally needed to treat asthma. These medications fall into two categories:

  • controller medications
  • reliever or rescue medications

Controller medications

Controller medications help prevent asthma symptoms and attacks. They are usually taken once or twice a day. The first class of controller medications is cortisone-based (corticosteroids). These drugs are used to prevent and control inflammation, and usually cause few side effects.

The second class of drugs is called long-acting bronchodilators. These drugs, administered by inhalation, relax the small muscles surrounding the airways, promoting better air flow. Their effect can last up to 12 hours. There are inhalation devices that combine medications from both these classes.

Other classes of supportive medication come in tablet form. Finally, there is a last type of treatment, administered by injection. They are reserved for more severe cases that are resistant to other treatment methods. Your pharmacist can provide you with information on these treatments.

Rescue medications

Reliever (or rescue) medications are taken as needed to quickly ease asthma symptoms. They help relax the muscles surrounding the bronchi. Reliever medications, known as fast-acting bronchodilators, have the following characteristics:

  • They come in the form of an inhaler.
  • They work fast (in just a few minutes) to relieve asthma symptoms.
  • They can be used before physical activity.
  • They are not useful for long-term asthma control.

Your pharmacist can provide you with information concerning all the important aspects of asthma medications.

It is essential to know how to use your inhaler properly if you are taking inhaled medication. An optimal inhalation technique will give you the best results. It is worth asking your pharmacist to teach you the correct technique, or to review it with you, so they can suggest adjustments if necessary.

If you use a metered-dose inhaler (or “pump”), consider using something called a spacer device. This is a simple and effective way of optimizing the delivery of your medication, so that it reaches your lungs rather than accumulating at the back of your throat. Your pharmacist can prescribe this type of device, which might be reimbursed by your drug insurance.



The asthma action plan is a very useful reference document. It contains information to help you manage your asthma, taking into account a variety of factors. In particular, it mentions the changes to be made to medication intake, depending on the asthma symptoms experienced. The action plan helps asthma sufferers to act swiftly, from the onset of symptoms. It can also help avoid the need for a medical appointment, or absenteeism from work or school.

This essential tool is prepared in conjunction with the doctor or another healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist. Its purpose is to help people become more autonomous and involved in the management of their condition. It should be consulted frequently and, above all, updated on a regular basis to ensure that the information it contains accurately reflects the person's reality.



Asthma can be controlled if it is taken seriously. Making certain lifestyle changes, taking the necessary medication regularly, careful monitoring, and adhering to medical recommendations are all keys to success. People who are committed and willing to make the necessary effort can lead an active life with very little discomfort. If you live with asthma, it’s up to you to make your respiratory health a priority!

Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about asthma and its treatments.


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Take control of asthma

Are you among the thousands of Canadians who struggle with asthma symptoms? Don't worry! Asthma can be controlled.
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