Medications to Avoid With Asthma
Various types of medications are used to treat asthma, including bronchodilators and steroids. But just as there are drugs you can take to treat asthma symptoms, there are also certain medications to avoid with asthma.
It is essential to understand that everyone with asthma is different. People have different drug sensitivities. A medication that affects one person adversely may not affect someone else the same way. In general, there are specific classifications of medications that people with asthma should avoid or talk to their doctor about before taking.
Why Avoid Certain Medications?
Like anyone, individuals with asthma can have an allergic reaction to any medication they take. Allergic reactions can include symptoms, such as hives, itching, and in severe cases, trouble breathing. It is also possible to have side effects that may make it seem like asthma symptoms are worse.
In other instances, specific drugs can trigger asthma symptoms in some people. For example, some classifications of medications may contribute to bronchospasms. Bronchospasm involves a narrowing of the muscles that surround the airways. Bronchospasms cause asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
Medications That Trigger Asthma Symptoms
There are certain classifications of medications that may trigger asthma symptoms in a small percentage of people or may make current symptoms worse. Below is a list of drugs that may need to be avoided if you have asthma.
Beta blockers are a type of drug that is prescribed to treat various forms of heart arrhythmias and high blood pressure. They are also sometimes recommended as a preventive medication for migraines. Common beta-blockers include atenolol, metoprolol and acebutolol.
Beta blockers act on specific receptors in the body, blocking the effects of epinephrine. The result is the heart beats slower and with less force, which decreases blood pressure.
While beta blockers can be an excellent treatment for high blood pressure, they can potentially trigger asthma symptoms in those with lung disease. Beta blockers can have the opposite effect of bronchodilators, such as albuterol, and lead to narrowing of the muscles that surround the airways trigger bronchospasm.
Aspirin and Ibuprofen
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, are used to treat pain, inflammation and fever. They are available in both over the counter and prescription strength. While they can be an effective option to treat pain, it is possible they can trigger symptoms of asthma by constricting the airways.
Aspirin may also trigger a flare-up of asthma symptoms in some people. Research varies on the percentage of people with sensitivity to aspirin. One study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ found that aspirin triggers asthma symptoms in about 20% of adults with the disease.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, people with asthma who are sensitive to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and aspirin usually tolerate low-dose acetaminophen to treat pain and fever.
ACE inhibitors are prescription drugs used to treat conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Some of the most common ACE inhibitors include enalapril and lisinopril. ACE inhibitors work by relaxing the arteries and veins in your body, which decreases blood pressure. The drugs also inhibit an enzyme in the body from making angiotensin II, which narrows the blood vessels.
Although ACE inhibitors do not usually make asthma worse, they can cause a cough as a side effect. Not everyone develops a cough, but when it does occur, it tends to develop a few months after starting the drugs. Although it may vary, the cough is typically dry, which some people may think is an increase in asthma symptoms.
ACE inhibitors can be an important part of a treatment plan for people with high blood pressure and other diseases, but your doctor may have alternative medications if coughing is severe.
Contrast Dye for X-rays
Although this is not a medication, the dye that is sometimes used when taking x-rays and CT scans can trigger asthma symptoms. The contrast dye is helpful to make images show up better. X-rays and CT scans can be performed without dye if it is leading to asthma symptoms.
How to Tell if Medication Triggers Asthma Symptoms
When you have asthma, it is essential to determine your triggers and also go for medications that might cause a flare-up. If you notice an increase in asthma symptoms shortly after you take some type of medication, talk with your doctor.
In addition to how you feel, it may be helpful to measure your peak flow daily to determine your baseline level. After you take a medication you suspect may be adversely affecting your breathing, measure your peak flow again and determine if there is a difference.
If some medications are causing asthma symptoms, your doctor might be able to switch the medication for something similar or change the dose. Before stopping certain medications, such as blood pressure drugs, talk with your doctor.