My Daughter has Asthma

Patient

Q: My daughter does NOT have insurance. She's heading to Africa in a month to do some mountain climbing, and is concerned with the possible onset of Asthma during the climb. Is there some OTC product she can use? Many yrs. ago she did use an inhaler, but that, of course, has expired, so she presently has nothing to use/take.

Doctor

A:   Hello, I understand your concern about your daughter’s asthma. Ideally it would have been better for her to get an evaluation before her trip to Africa not only for her asthma but also for vaccination against hepatitis A and Yellow Fever which might be needed.
Since her asthma seems to be controlled without medication at the moment, there are some over the counter medications that she could take and use only if she feels an asthma attack.
Over the counter medications for asthma include theophylline ephedrine combination pills and epinephrine inhalers. Both types of medication relieve asthma symptoms by relaxing airway muscles, which allows air to flow back smoothly through the lungs. Epinephrine and theophylline-ephedrine should only be used for mild forms of asthma, in which symptoms flare up about once a week. Epinephrine is the more effective of the two, since it comes in a form that works quickly and is directly inhaled into the lungs, which are the source of symptom flare-ups.
Since Epinephrine is sold as an inhaler, I would recommend this for your daughter to purchase just in case she has an Asthma Attack. Remember that taking these over the counter allergy medications incorrectly can result in high blood pressure, a heart attack or stroke. So in the case that she has an asthma episode in Africa she will have to be evaluated there and possibly needing Nebulization or more aggressive treatment. I wish her the best.

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