What Drugs Do Paramedics Use for Asthma Attacks?

Asthma attacks are some of the most common emergencies that paramedics respond to. If a patient is suffering from an asthma attack, paramedics usually administer albuterol to open up the medium and large airways in the lungs. 

Steroids may also be given to the patient to reduce inflammation. In very extreme cases of anaphylaxis, epinephrine will be injected through an EpiPen.

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About Asthma Emergencies

Asthma is a chronic disease that involves the narrowing of the airway (bronchoconstriction), mucous plugging, and inflammation. It’s common, especially among children, and is a frequent reason for emergency medical treatment. People having an asthma attack often experience acute shortness of breath and difficulty with expiration.

How Paramedics Respond to Asthma Attacks

Here’s a quick overview of what paramedics do when responding to asthma attacks:


When they arrive at the scene, paramedics first assess the situation, checking the patient’s airway, breathing, and circulation. They will check how fast the person is breathing (or if they’re struggling to breathe) and measure the levels of blood oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body.

Oxygen and Nebulizers

Most asthma emergencies involve the use of supplemental oxygen, which is administered almost immediately to the patient through a simple nasal cannula or face mask. Nebulizer treatments are also common to relax the airways.


After aiding the patient with breathing, paramedics will typically administer medicines through the muscles (intramuscular) or the veins (intravenous). These aim to further relax the airways through shots or an IV line. 

What will an ambulance do for chest pain if it happens, and what drugs do paramedics use for trauma? For this and other symptoms, paramedics may also give oral medication and other drugs or fluids. 

Airway Management

If oxygen, nebulizers, and medication fail, paramedics may use ventilation to support breathing. These can be done through bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), both providing pressurized air to open airways. Intubation may also be a last resort for lifesaving artificial breathing in extreme cases.

Pre-Hospital Prep

Once the patient is stable, the paramedic will transport them to a hospital to see a specialist. They will prep the patient by recording all necessary information to endorse to a doctor for accurate treatment.

Drugs that Paramedics Use for Asthma Attacks

Paramedics will likely administer drugs to treat asthma attacks. Here are some of the most common medications used for such emergencies:

Quick-Relief Medicines

Inhaled quick-relief medicines are often used to open a patient’s airways. Albuterol is the most frequently administered drug and is given with an inhaler or a nebulizer. Levalbuterol is also a usual quick-relief medicine for bronchial relief.


Steroids, particularly corticosteroids, are ordinarily given to treat inflammation. They can be given as pills or shots.


Epinephrine is a drug that’s used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis.

Learn More About Paramedic Pharmacology

Learning about drugs is essential to becoming a paramedic, as these EMS professionals are trained to administer medication during emergencies. You can learn everything you need to know about paramedic pharmacology in our Video Vault. Get lifetime access for only $147 today!

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