Inhalers contain bronchodilators, medications that help relieve asthma symptoms by relaxing the muscles that surround the airways.  Once the muscles relax, airways become less constricted; consequently, air can be inhaled and exhaled more easily through these wider openings.  There are two types of bronchodilators:  short-acting and long-acting.  Rescue inhalers are short-acting because their purpose is to work rapidly to relieve symptoms at the onset of an asthma attack.  These medications take effect in a few minutes and last for several hours.  Long-acting bronchodilators are intended to prevent asthma attacks from occurring by keeping airways open.  Long-acting inhalers are often a daily part of long-term management of asthma and may be combined with anti-inflammatory medications that reduce swelling.

P.S.   Doctors sometimes suggest that some patients use a rescue inhaler prior to an exercise workout to prevent an asthma attack from happening.

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