Helping Australians Breathe Better
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Is it OK to use a different medication?
Why are there so many different names for medications?
Why do they all come in different shapes?
What about side effects?
Are there any alternatives to medication?
If you aren’t happy with the medication you are taking for any reason, talk to your doctor and they may be able to prescribe an appropriate alternative. It’s important to never stop taking your medication, change the dose or type without medical advice first.
You should only use the medication that you have been prescribed, not someone else’s medication. This is because medication is prescribed on an individual basis; that means you get the medication that’s right for you and your asthma, not your friend’s, mother’s or neighbour’s. Sharing inhalers can also lead to sharing of viruses and other bugs. However, in an emergency you can use someone else’s reliever if you don’t have yours with you.
Sometimes asthma medications can be confusing. There are lots of different names, and words used to describe them. Here’s why:Asthma medications are grouped together based on what they are aiming to achieve, e.g. Relievers. Health professionals also sometimes use the term that describes how the drug works, or its action in the body, e.g. Short-acting beta-2 agonist.
Each drug then has a chemical name, e.g. Salbutamol, and this drug may then be sold under different brand names, e.g. Ventolin, Asmol, Airomir. All of these brand names contain the same type of medication, but they are sold by different companies. This is the same with other medications such as paracetamol and aspirin.
To make it even more complicated, inhaled medications can come in different devices, such as puffers or accuhalers. Sometimes the same medication even comes in different types and shapes of devices. No wonder people get confused!
Your medication will have its brand name and its chemical name listed on the outside. It will also have numbers that show what dose each puff or pill has in it. Your prescription will show how many puffs or pills you should take, and when. This is usually printed on a sticker on the outside of the box the medication comes in.
Note: If you have any questions about your medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
For more information about the different types of asthma medication, check our medication reference chart.
If you have questions about other medications, phone the Medicines Line on 1300 888 763. This line provides consumers with independent information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines.
Researchers around the world are constantly searching for a cure for asthma, but at the moment the best treatment we have for asthma is medication. Taking regular medication as you need it now can prevent you developing complications or chronic lung disease in the future. For information about medicines or therapies to complement your current treatment, check our complementary therapies page.
Side effects of medications are a worry for many people with asthma, especially for those who take medication every day. Read the side effects section for information.
Call our Information Line to talk to a trained health professional on 1800 645 130 or use our online form.