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Most people who have asthma attacks severe enough to land them in the emergency room are treated, then sent home with corticosteroid pills.

But sending patients home with oral and inhaled corticosteroids could cut their risk of relapse by nearly half, according to researchers who followed 188 patients for three weeks after they were discharged from the emergency room.

Emergency room doctors usually don't prescribe the inhalers because corticosteroid pills alone can prevent a relapse, says lead researcher Dr. Brian H. Rowe of the University of Alberta, Edmonton. But the pills often work temporarily, just for the week or so that they are prescribed.

If an asthma attack sends you to the emergency room, ask the physician who's treating you whether an inhaler could help you stay out of the hospital longer, Rowe suggests.

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