Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Respiratory Medications

Medications used to treat asthma can generally be divided into two categories: relievers and controllers. They are available in various forms and are delivered through a variety of devices; however, the inhaled route is the preferred route as it minimizes systemic availability and therefore minimizes side effects.

a) Relievers

  • Relievers are medications that are used primarily on an as-needed basis to relieve asthma symptoms. They may also be used to prevent asthma symptoms prior to exercise or when exposed to other triggers.
  • Relievers are to be used at the lowest dose and frequency required to relieve symptoms.


b) Controllers

  • Controllers are medications that are taken regularly on a daily basis to minimize asthma symptoms from occurring and to prevent exacerbations by reducing inflammation.



Chronic Disease
Adult Asthma Care Guidelines for Nurses: Promoting Control of Asthma
Point of Care Resources