Inhalers have changed the way that doctors treat asthma completely. Asthma inhalers can deliver medicine directly to the lungs just about anytime or anyplace that an asthma attack happens. Portable, easy to use and commonly accepted, asthma inhalers are a key to independence for many asthma sufferers.
While there are other parts to an asthma treatment plan, asthma inhalers are the part that can make it possible for those who have asthma to engage in regular daily activities including sports and other activities without fear. Knowing what type of inhalers you can use and how to use them can help you manage your life so that asthma doesnt manage you.
Definition: Asthma inhalers are portable, usually hand-held devices used to deliver medication directly to the lungs.
There are two kind of inhalers:
- Metered-dose inhalers. A metered dose asthma inhaler delivers medication by means of a chemical propellant like a fluorocarbon. Usually, the medication is released by pressing the inhaler canister into a base similar to a spray can. As the name says it delivers a metered, or measured dose.
- Dry powder inhalers. With the concerns about fluorocarbons and chemicals damaging the atmosphere, manufacturers have come up with other ways to deliver medication in inhalers. In a dry powder inhaler, medication is delivered in a powder rather than a fine mist.
Types of Medication in Asthma Inhalers
- Short-acting bronchodilators. Often called rescue inhalers, short-acting bronchodilators relieve asthma symptoms immediately in an emergency situation by relaxing the muscles around the bronchial tubes. The effects last 4-8 hours. They include albuterol and pirbuterol.
- Long-acting bronchodilators. Salmeterol and formoterol are also bronchodilators, but the effects are longer lasting. Long-acting bronchodilators are NOT for use in an emergency situation. Instead, they are used to relax bronchial muscles for longer periods of time as treatment for chronic problems.
- Corticosteroids. Inhaled corticosteroids are used as a long-term preventative medication. They work by reducing the underlying bronchial and pulmonary inflammation. Most are prescribed for use once or twice a day on an ongoing basis.
- Cromolyn or nedocromil are two nonsteroid medications that are used to prevent and manage inflammation in the long term.
- Corticosteroid + long-acting bronchodilator. This medication combines a corticosteroid and a long-acting bronchodilator (Advair).
How to Use Asthma Inhalers
Your doctor may give you slightly different instructions for using the asthma inhaler prescribed for you, but in general, the instructions for using an asthma inhaler depend on which type of inhaler it is.
A metered dose inhaler comes in a pressurized canister. When you press down on the top of the canister, one measured dose of medication is converted into a fine mist. To use the metered dose inhaler, hold it in front of your mouth or against your lips and be ready to inhale.
You must be able to inhale and press down on the canister at the same time. This can be difficult for young children, who often are prescribed an asthma inhaler with a spacer or a face mask to make it easier for them to use.
When you use a dry powder inhaler, you don’t need to coordinate breath and press. Instead, you put your lips on the mouthpiece and take a sharp, deep breath to pull in one dose of powdered medication. Dry powder asthma inhalers are available in several different types.