Asthma Treatment - Long-Term Control Medications - Leukotriene Modifiers

Leukotriene modifiers are used most often for allergies that affect the nasal passages, a form of allergy known as allergic rhinitis. These types of allergies are usually brought on by environmental irritants such as smoke, pet dander, pollen or dust, although they can also be triggered by food allergies.

When the body is irritated by these foreign particles it naturally produces leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are an inflammatory chemical that causes nasal passages and other airways in the nose and throat to tighten in an effort to block the foreign particles from flowing. They also create thick mucus. When a large amount of leukotrienes are released by a severe allergic reaction it can be fatal due to the inability to breathe.

Leukotriene modifiers block the body's natural response system to the allergens in the air. They are also effective in halting asthma symptoms and even asthma triggered by exercise. They are effective in relieving the irritation of allergies such as congestion, runny nose, itching, watery eyes, sore throats and sleep problems. There is a second type of leukotriene modifier known as a leukotriene inhibitor which blocks the production of leukotriene by the body.

How Leukotriene Modifiers are Taken

Leukotriene modifiers come in several forms for easy application. It is available as a powder to mix into water, pills or chewable tablets. They are slow to take effect and should not be used as an emergency relief from a severe reaction to an allergen. This medication works best when taken regularly, even when no symptoms are present, to avoid a reaction to an accidental exposure to allergens. Some of the brand names associated with leukotriene modifiers include:

  • Singulair (Montelukast)
  • Accolate (Zafirlukast)
  • Zyflo CR (Zileuton)
  • Zyflo (Zileuton)

Effectiveness of Leukotriene Modifiers

While leukotriene modifiers are fast acting and reliable for most asthma and allergy sufferers they are best used to prevent minor outbreaks from minor exposure to allergen. They are not as effective for a serious allergic reaction on their own, although they can help alleviate symptoms until a stronger relief is available.

Side Effects of Leukotriene Modifiers

Most side effects are minor and cause no ill-effects from long-term use. Leukotriene modifiers do not cause addiction. Some of the more common side effects from leukotriene modifiers include:

  • Digestion trouble
  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chest and/or nasal congestion
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Excitability

Warnings Associated with Leukotriene Modifiers

Children under the age of 12 should not take leukotriene modifiers without the advice of a physician. A physician may consider a leukotriene modifier for younger children when allergy symptoms occur more than three times in a 12 month period, or they have parents with a history of severe allergic reactions. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take leukotriene modifiers unless prescribed by their physician.