Wheeze medical therapy

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Wheeze Microchapters


Patient Information




Differentiating Wheeze from other Conditions

Epidemiology and Demographics

Risk Factors

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis


History and Symptoms

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Medical Therapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor-In-Chief: John Fani Srour, M.D.

Medical Therapy

Management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

All patients with COPD should be on a short-acting bronchodilator to be used on as-needed basis for intermittent increases in dyspnea. The purpose of the short-acting bronchodilator is to reduce symptoms and improve lung function. It is recommended to use a short-acting beta agonist plus a short-acting anticholinergic, rather than either alone, to achieve greater benefit. However, monotherapy with either is acceptable. For patients in whom intermittent short-acting bronchodilators are insufficient to control symptoms, a regularly scheduled long-acting inhaled bronchodilator is recommended. The purpose of the long-acting inhaled bronchodilator is to improve symptoms, improve lung function, and reduce the frequency of exacerbations. The effects of the currently available once daily long acting anticholinergic are superior to the effects of the twice daily long acting beta agonists that are available. Theophylline is the least preferred long-acting bronchodilator option because its effects are modest and toxicity is a concern. For patients who continue to have symptoms or repeated exacerbations despite an optimal long-acting inhaled bronchodilator regimen, adding an inhaled glucocorticoid is recommended.

All patients with COPD should be advised to quit smoking, educated about COPD, and given a yearly influenza vaccination. In addition, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine should be given to patients who are ≥ 65 years old, or who are younger than 65 years with a forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) less than 40 percent.

Management of Asthma

The optimal treatment of asthma involves the following steps:

  1. Monitoring of symptoms and lung function by formal periodic pulmonary function testing.
  2. Patient education.
  3. Controlling environmental and trigger factors and co-morbid conditions that contribute to asthma.
  4. Pharmacologic therapy in a step wise fashion depending on the severity of asthma: intermittent (Step 1), mild persistent (Step 2), moderate persistent (Step 3), and severe persistent (Step 4 or 5).

Asthma severity is based upon current level of symptoms, FEV1 or PEFR values, and the number of exacerbations requiring oral glucocorticoids per year. Medications include: quick-acting inhaled beta-2-selective adrenergic agonists, long-acting inhaled beta agonists, inhaled glucocorticoids, leukotriene receptor antagonists, theophylline, cromoglycates, anti-IgE therapy (omalizumab), and oral glucocorticoids on a daily or alternate-day basis.[1] [2]


  1. Sailer, Christian, Wasner, Susanne. Differential Diagnosis Pocket. Hermosa Beach, CA: Borm Bruckmeir Publishing LLC, 2002:77 ISBN 1591032016
  2. Kahan, Scott, Smith, Ellen G. In A Page: Signs and Symptoms. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2004:68 ISBN 140510368X

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