Asthma inhalers are common medications used to treat asthma. Asthma cannot be cured, but an inhaler for asthma can help you in controlling your symptoms and to live a normal life. An inhaler contains medicines in the form of a spray or a dry powder and may be used both for preventive purposes and in order to avert asthma attacks. Asthma medication also comes as tablets or as injections, but the inhaler delivers the medicine directly to where it is needed – into the lungs – which eases the asthma symptoms faster. Inhaled medicines usually come with fewer side effects.
Currently, dry powder inhalers are the most common inhalers for asthma. They are activated by the breathing and are often easy to use since they do not require you to coordinate your breathing with the dose transportation.
Sprays contain gas tubes spraying the medicine into your mouth as you press it while inhaling at the same time. This type of inhaler can be difficult to use for some people since it requires that the breathing is coordinated with the preparation and transportation of the dose. For young children with asthma a spray connected to a small extender (spacer) is sometimes used. The medicine is then pumped into the extender and the child will receive the medicine by breathing normally into a mouthpiece or a mask connected to the spacer.
A nebulizer transforms liquid medication into a fine aerosol, which is inhaled through a mouthpiece or a mask. Nebulizers are often big and are primarily used in health care for small children or people with severe asthma attacks, who might find it hard to use a spray or a dry powder inhaler.
The asthma medication has to reach the lungs in order to be effective – that is why the inhaler is the key to good asthma treatment. All inhalers for asthma available today have a relatively good ability to deliver the medicine to the lungs. But naturally, that requires that they are used correctly. Unfortunately, it has turned out that several inhalers are constructed in a way that it is not always easy to use them exactly the right way. Nor do all of them give feedback on whether they have been used correctly or not. This may lead to not all asthmatics getting the treatment they need in spite of using their inhaler every day.
Nowadays, however, modern asthma inhalers have a feedback function that lets you know when the correct dose has been prepared in the inhaler as well as if the correct dose has been sufficiently inhaled. This makes it possible to know, for example, when you have to inhale one more time in order to receive the dose, and thereby to a larger extent avoid unconscious undertreatment. This is important especially when children are using their dry powder inhalers.
In more modern inhalers it is common that there is a counter that indicates how many doses are left. It helps you know when the inhaler is empty. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you are unsure of how your inhaler works – or to ask for an inhaler that suits your needs better.
Preventive medication that contains small amounts of corticosteroid is the basis of asthma treatment, and these are usually inhaled every morning and night. But the need varies from individual to individual. If your asthma is mild it may be sufficient to take the inhaled corticoster once a day. If you, on the other hand, suffer from severe problems it may be necessary to take it up to four times a day.
Inhalers also contain different types of bronchodilating medicines. Fast-acting bronchodilators give a quick alleviation of acute asthma attacks, and are available with brief or long-lasting effects. Other bronchodilators only exist with effects of long duration and are used in combination with the inhaled cortisone as a part of the maintenance treatment.
UK/GEN/15/0055f Date of preparation: December 2015