Asthma medicines help kids breathe easy. Medicines keep airways from swelling, becoming irritated, and narrowing. When kids take their medicines as directed and avoid asthma triggers, their asthma is under control. And when their asthma is under control, kids can do just about anything they want to do. The two main types of asthma medicines are quick-relief medicines and long-term control medicines. How Do Quick-Relief Medicines Work? Quick-relief medicines (also called rescue medicines or fast-acting medicines) do what their name says. They work immediately to relieve symptoms of an asthma flare-up as it's happening. They open up the airways to relieve symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. The most-prescribed quick-relief medicines (like Albuterol) are quick-acting bronchodilators (usually given through an inhaler or a nebulizer). If a bronchodilator alone doesn't ease a severe flare-up, other medicines may be given by mouth or injection to help treat it. If your child has been prescribed quick-relief medicine, it's important to always keep it on hand. That means at home, at the mall, at sports practice, and even on vacation. Talk with your doctor about how often your child needs it. If it's too often, the doctor also might prescribe a daily long-term control medicine to help prevent asthma flare-ups. How Do Long-Term Control Medicines Work? Long-term control medicines (also called controller medicines or maintenance medicines) work over a period of time to ease airway swelling, limit mucus, and help prevent asthma symptoms. These medicines may be inhaled or swallowed as a pill or liquid. They should be taken as prescribed, even when your child seems well. There are a variety of long-term control medicines, but inhaled corticosteroids are the most common. They're usually given through an inhaler or nebulizer. Despite their name, corticosteroids are not the same as performance-enhancing steroids used by athletes. They're a safe and proven form of asthma treatment. Long-acting bronchodilators also can be prescribed. These medicines relax the muscles of the airways for up to 12 hours. Even if your child takes long-term control medicine regularly, quick-relief medicine is still needed to handle flare-ups when they happen. What Else Should I Know? Your doctor will decide which type of medicine your child needs based on his or her symptoms and how often they happen. Be sure to report any concerns or changes in the symptoms to help your doctor find the best treatment and also make updates when needed. For many kids with asthma, both the type of medicine and the dosage needed will change over time as they grow. Back to Articles Related Articles Asthma Center Asthma keeps more kids home from school than any other chronic illness. Learn how to help your child manage the condition, stay healthy, and stay in school. Read More Asthma Asthma makes it hard to breathe. But with treatment, the condition can be managed so that kids can still do the things they love. Learn all about asthma. Read More Asthma Triggers Triggers — things in the air, weather conditions, or activities — can cause asthma flare-ups. By knowing and avoiding triggers, you'll help lessen your child's asthma symptoms. Read More What if My Child Doesn't Take His or Her Asthma Medication? One of the best ways to help kids manage asthma, besides avoiding triggers, is to make sure they take their medicine as prescribed. Read More What Are Nebulizers and Inhalers? Find out how these asthma tools help kids take their medicines. Read More Managing Asthma Asthma control can take a little time and energy to master, but it's worth the effort. Learn more about ways to manage your child's asthma. Read More What's an Asthma Action Plan? Find out how this written plan can help you care for your child with asthma. Read More Asthma Center Visit our Asthma Center for information and advice on managing and living with asthma. Read More Asthma Center Asthma means breathing problems. Find out what's going on in the lungs and how to stay healthy, if you have it. Read More What's the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler? Inhalers and nebulizers are tools that help you get asthma medicine into the lungs. Find out how to use them. Read More How Can I Deal With My Asthma? Asthma is more common these days than it used to be. The good news is it's also a lot easier to manage and control. Read More How Do Asthma Medicines Work? Two different types of medicines are used to treat asthma: long-term control medicines and quick-relief medicines. Read about how they work, and why people might need to take them. Read More Handling an Asthma Flare-Up How can you prepare for an asthma flare-up? Find out in this article for kids. Read More How Do Asthma Medicines Work? Kids who have asthma need to take medicine. But what kind of medicine do they take and what does it do? Let's find out. Read More What's an Asthma Action Plan? If you have asthma, you'll want to have an asthma action plan. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More What's the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler? People use inhalers and nebulizers to get asthma medicine into their lungs. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Asthma Asthma makes it hard to breathe. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Asthma Asthma is a lung condition that makes it hard to breathe. Learn all about asthma here. Read More Asthma Flare-Ups Find out how to deal with — and help prevent — asthma flare-ups ("attacks"), which is when asthma symptoms get worse. Read More Asthma-Safe Homes Here's steps to remove or minimize triggers at home that cause asthma flare-ups. Read More Dealing With Asthma Triggers If you have asthma, certain things may cause you to cough and have trouble breathing. Find out more about asthma triggers in this article for kids. Read More Dealing With Asthma Triggers Find out what can make your asthma worse, and what to do about it. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.