Asthma Inhaler Options

Asthma Inhaler Options

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

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For quite a while now, health experts have been warning the public of an asthma epidemic sweeping the nation.  WebMD reports that over twenty-five million Americans suffer from this disease and that it is responsible for almost two million emergency room visits each year.  Thankfully, we currently have a variety of choices for alleviating the symptoms of asthma.  Here are some of the inhalers and medications available today.

 Types of Inhalers


Nebulizers  convert asthma medications from liquid form into a mist and deliver it through a mouthpiece or facemask.  Since they allow you to breathe normally, they can be slightly easier to use than the other inhalers listed below.  For this reason, they’re a popular choice when treating asthma in younger children.

To use a nebulizer, assemble the various pieces (air compressor, mask/mouthpiece, tubing) and insert a dose of medicine.  Sit upright comfortably, put the mouthpiece in your mouth or the mask against your face and breathe in slowly and deeply.  It usually takes about ten minutes to go through a full dose of medicine.  Remember to wash your mask/mouthpiece after each time that you use it.


Metered Dose Inhalers (MDI)

MDI’s are popular dispensers of short-term medications (i.e. ones used to treat or prevent sudden asthma attacks).  They store the medication in a small handheld canister and send it into your mouth when you press down on it.  MDI’s can come equipped with a spacer (i.e. a small tube or mask) to make using them easier.  Because of their easy portability,

To use an MDI, remove the caps from the inhaler and spacer (if it comes with one) and connect them.  Breathe out completely, put the inhaler or spacer in your mouth, press the canister once and breathe in slowly.  Try to hold your breath for at least ten seconds.  After that, remove the inhaler, breathe out slowly, repeat the steps as needed or prescribed and replace the caps when you’ve finished.  If you take a medication with a steroid, remember to wash your mouth with water and gargle afterwards.


Dry Powder Inhalers (DPI)

DPI’s dispense asthma medications in powder form.  Because they require you to breathe deeply and quickly, they can be difficult to use during a sudden attack.  Furthermore, some types of DPI can only hold a single dose of medication at a time, which can also make them potentially impractical.  On the other hand, the fact that you only need to breathe in for DPI’s to release medication can make them more convenient for people who may have trouble working an MDI.

To use a DPI, insert a dose of medicine, tilt your head back slightly and breathe out.  Put the inhaler in your mouth and breathe in for two to three seconds.  Hold your breath for ten seconds and then repeat the previous steps as needed.  Be careful not to breathe out into the DPI, which could scatter the medicine and cause it to clump up due to the moisture from your breath.

  Types of Asthma Medication

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

This type of asthma medicine reduces swelling and mucus buildup in your airways.  Consequently, they help prevent and treat sudden asthma attacks.  Anti-inflammatory medications include corticosteroids such as Azmacort and Pulmicort and mast cell stabilizers such as Intal and Tilade.


Bronchodilators can treat asthma symptoms both in the short-term (e.g. Albuterol or Alupent) and the long-term (e.g. Advair and Symbicort).  They help alleviate wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing by widening your airways.  They can have side effects such as upset stomach, muscle cramps or increased heart rate.

If you’re diagnosed with asthma, consult your doctor or pharmacist.  They can work with you to find the proper choice of medication and inhaler for your symptoms and their severity.


Ken Stanfield is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in respiratory health and healthcare.  He currently writes for the site justnebulizers.com


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