A beta-agonist, such as albuterol (Ventolin) or salmeterol (Serevent), should be used only during an asthma attack, and not to help prevent attacks.

New study: Asthma patients who used inhaled beta-agonists every day for at least one week were less responsive to subsequent doses and had greater lung inflammation than patients who used placebo inhalers before using a beta-agonist.

Reason: Overuse of beta-agonists creates a tolerance to its airway-opening effects and increases airway inflammation.

Self-defense: Ask your doctor whether it would be a good idea for you to use an inhaled corticosteroid, such as fluticasone (Flovent), and an inhaled anticholinergic, such as ipratropium (Atrovent), on a regular basis to try to minimize inflammation as well as asthma attacks.

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