Question: What is a rescue medicine and when is it used for asthma?
Answer: A rescue medicine is a medicine used in asthma to acutely reverse exacerbation of symptoms. Therefore, a rescue medicine is one that needs to act quickly.
Most rescue medicines are beta-adrenergic agonists, that is they are bronchodilator drugs that cause the smooth muscles of the airway to relax.
These drugs would be used whenever an individual, regardless of any other treatment they're using, on top of that when their asthma kicks up. Such drugs might be needed when somebody gets a cold, when they're exercising vigorously, when it's very cold outdoors, all things that are known to aggravate asthma.
We worry, we as physicians worry when individuals are using too much of their acute rescue medicine and that helps us decide whether or not somebody needs to start a controller medicine or increase the amount of controller medicine that they're taking.