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Different Types Of Inhalers For Asthma

Will I Have To Take Medicine All The Time

What are the Different Types of Asthma Inhalers?

Maybe not. Asthma is a chronic condition that is controllable. Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma. For that reason, you may have asthma symptoms when exposed to triggers. This is the case even if you dont have symptoms very often. Your triggers can change over time, and your treatment will depend on two things: how severe your asthma is, and how often you have symptoms. If your asthma is controlled, your treatment will focus on managing symptoms and treatment of episodes when they happen.

If your symptoms happen at certain times and you know what caused them, you and your doctor can use this information to determine the best treatment. If, for example, you have seasonal asthma because of a specific pollen allergy, you may take medicines only when that pollen is in the air. But asthma that specific is not common. Many people with asthma take some form of medicine most or all of the time.

How To Use An Inhaler

This article was co-authored by Alan O. Khadavi, MD, FACAAI and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA. Dr. Alan O. Khadavi is a Board Certified Allergist and a Pediatric Allergy Specialist based in Los Angeles, California. He holds a BS in biochemistry from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an MD from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn. Dr. Khadavi completed his pediatric residency at Schneider Childrens Hospital in New York, and then went on to complete his allergy and immunology fellowship and pediatric residency at Long Island College Hospital. He is board certified in adult and pediatric allergy/immunology. Dr. Khadavi is a Diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, a Fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology , and a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology . Dr. Khadavis honors include Castle Connollys list of Top Doctors 2013-2020, and Patient Choice Awards Most Compassionate Doctor in 2013 & 2014.There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 109,389 times.

Training And Education To Support The Use Of Inhalers

Inhaler misuse is one of the most commonly reported barriers to adherence. Melani et al15 observed the strongest and most significant associations between inhaler misuse with older age, lower schooling, and lack of instruction regarding inhaler technique. It must be acknowledged that even the most user-friendly devices still require education and a demonstration, which has been shown to be lacking in several studies.

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Do I Need An Inhaler Every Day

According to updated guidance from the National Institutes of Health, the daily use of long-acting inhalers is no longer necessary for people with mild to moderate persistent asthma. If you use an inhaler daily, ask your healthcare provider if the new guidelines might affect your treatment.

There are three types of long-acting inhalers commonly used for people with asthma:

When A Nebulizer Is Used Instead


Babies and very young children with asthma who arenât yet able to manage an inhaler typically receive inhaled medications via a nebulizera machine that turns the medicine into a mist.

With a nebulizer, liquid medication for asthma is placed into a cup. On one side, the cup is connected to a mask that will fit over a young childs mouth and nose. On the other side, itâs attached to tubing. The tubing runs into a motorized device. When you turn on the motor, the liquid medication is vaporized and comes out into the mask.

Babies, toddlers, and young children dont have to do anything to receive the correct dosage of medication. They just need to breathe in the midst. It can take some time to get your child comfortable using the mask. Arranging a simple activity that encourages them to sit still, like looking at a picture book, will help ensure they get the required dosage.

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How To Use Your Respimat Device

To get the most benefit, it is important to use the correct technique. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse to show you how to use your Respimat device. Here is some guidance:

If using your Respimat device for the first time

  • Insert the cartridge: keep the cap closed. Remove clear base – press the safety catch while firmly pulling the base with other hand. Insert the narrow end of the cartridge into the inhaler. Press down on a hard surface to secure the cartridge into the device and close the base.
  • Prime the inhaler: to ensure the device releases the medicine properly, you will need to prime it. Do this by turning the clear base in the direction of the arrows on the label until it clicks . Open the cap, push the release button on the front, until you see the mist come out of the mouth piece. You may need to do this a few times.

Inserting the cartridge and priming the Respimat device can be tricky. Ask you pharmacist to load the cartridge for you.

To use your Respimat device

  • Load the dose: hold the inhaler upright with the cap closed. Turn the base in the direction of arrows until until you hear a click.
  • Breath out: breathe out, away from the device. Do not blow directly into your device.
  • Inhale your dose: open the cap and press your lips around the mouthpiece without covering the air vents on either side. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your mouth. Press the dose release button and continue to breathe in. Hold your breath for up to 10 seconds. Breathe out slowly.

Cleaning And Looking After Your Inhaler

Keeping your inhaler clean will mean you can avoid problems like accidentally breathing in dust from the mouthpiece.

Storing it somewhere cool and dry is important too. Avoid keeping your inhaler on a hot windowsill, or in a damp bathroom cabinet. Always remember to check the use-by date of your inhaler too. If your inhaler is out-of-date or used, you can take it to your local pharmacy to dispose of.

You can call our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 to talk to a respiratory nurse specialist about using your inhalers. Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.

Next review due October 2024

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How To Clean Your Inhaler

You have to clean them about once a week so the medication doesnât build up and block the mouthpiece.


  • Remove the canister and cap from the mouthpiece.
  • Donât wash the canister or put it in water.
  • Run warm tap water through the top and bottom of the mouthpiece for 30-60 seconds.
  • Use a soft cloth to remove any medication buildup.
  • Shake off the water.
  • Let the mouthpiece dry completely. Overnight is best.
  • If you need to use the inhaler before the mouthpiece dries, shake off the extra water, replace the canister, point it away from your face, and test-spray it twice before you use it.

DPI: Donât wash it with soap and water. Clean the mouthpiece with a dry cloth. Check the instructions for more information.

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What Are The Types Of Bronchodilators

Asthma Inhalers, Nebulizers, Spacers and Chambers

There are three main types of bronchodilators: beta 2-agonists, anticholinergics and theophylline.

Beta 2-agonists

Beta 2-agonists exist in short-acting forms and long-acting forms.

Short-acting beta 2-agonists quickly open your airways to stop asthma symptoms. People sometimes refer to SABAs as reliever or rescue medicines because theyre the best medications for treating sudden, severe or new asthma symptoms.

SABAs work within 15 to 20 minutes and last for four to six hours. You may also use them 15 to 20 minutes before exercising to prevent asthma symptoms that arise from physical activity.

In inhaled forms, SABA medications include:

You may take long-acting beta-2 agonists twice a day for long-term control and maintenance of your airways. You should also use LABAs with an inhaled corticosteroid to treat asthma. Corticosteroids help reduce swelling in your airways and lungs. LABAs are also effective in treating exercise-induced asthma.

LABAs are available as a dry powder inhaler . These medications include:


Anticholinergics are available as ipratropium bromide and tiotropium bromide . They block the effects of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that your body makes.


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Blue Inhalers Bronchodilator Drugs

This is the most common group of inhalers which contain bronchodilator drugs . Bronchodilator simply means that the drug allows the airways in your lungs to dilate and let more air in.

Blue inhalers are great short-acting treatment they can relieve the symptoms of an asthma attack within minutes. They are also commonly used as a long-term treatment, following a specific prescription, e.g. 2-3 doses a day for a certain period of time .

Common Mistakes When Using The Mdi

  • Breathing in too fast.
  • Breathing out so hard that you cough.
  • Pressing the puffer too early before you have started to breathe in .
  • Tilting your head down it should be tilting back slightly.
  • Pressing the inhaler two times during a single inhalation.
  • Giving the inhaler a ‘test puff’ into the air and wasting the medication.
  • Breathing in through the nose instead of the mouth.

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Side Effects Of Asthma Medications

Many medications have side effects. For example, inhaled steroids can cause mild problems, such as thrush infections and a sore throat, or more serious ones including eye disorders and bone loss. Keep your doctor up to date with how well your treatment is working and whether you have side effects. Theyâll work with you to keep your asthma under control with as little medicine as possible.

How Do Asthma Treatments Work

Asthma Medications and Devices: Asthma Triggers

Asthma treatments work in these ways:

  • They relax the muscles that tighten around the airways. They relieve the squeeze. They can be short- or long-acting. By opening the airways, they help remove and reduce mucus. These medicines are bronchodilators or beta agonists.
  • They reduce the swelling and mucus inside the airways. These medicines are anti-inflammatories .
  • Bronchodilators

    Bronchodilators can be short- or long-acting. If you use short-acting bronchodilators more than two days a week, talk with your doctor about your asthma control. You may need to make changes to your treatment plan to better control your asthma.


    Anti-inflammatories come in many different forms. They are also called controllers because they help to control or prevent asthma symptoms. They reduce swelling and extra mucus inside the airways. They will not relieve sudden symptoms.

    Other Types of Medicines and Treatments

    Single Maintenance and Reliever Therapy

    The 2020 Focused Updates to the Asthma Management Guidelines recommends single maintenance and reliever therapy, also known as SMART. SMART uses one inhaler that has two medicines as a quick-relief and controller medicine. When on SMART, you can either take your medicine only as needed to relieve sudden symptoms, or you can take it daily as a controller and as needed for quick relief. This is based on your age and the severity of your asthma.

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    What Are The Common Side Effects

    Common side effects of using nebulizer medications may include

    • Muscles tighten around the airways
    • Breathing gets worse after a treatment
    • Chest feels tight after the treatment
    • Fever and sore mouth or throat

    This is not a complete list of side effects and other serious side effects or health problems that may occur because of the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

    Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Nebulizer Medications

    Generally, there are no interactions between bronchodilators and alcohol. Even corticosteroids do not directly interact with alcohol. However, alcohol can worsen underlying conditions such as asthma, so it is better to restrict or avoid alcohol completely while using nebulizers. Consult your physician to know the safety of alcoholic drinks.

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    What Are The Side Effects Of Theophylline

    Side effects of theophylline include:

    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Jittery or nervous feeling

    These side effects may also be a sign that youâve taken too much medication. Your doctor will check levels of the drug in your blood to make sure youâre getting the proper amount.

    Always tell your doctors if you take theophylline for asthma because certain medications, like some antibiotics, seizure medicines, and ulcer medicines, can interact with it. Make sure your doctor knows about any other medical conditions you may have. Some diseases and illnesses can change how your body responds to theophylline.

    And keep in mind that not only is smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke especially dangerous when you have asthma, it can also interfere with how your body responds to the medication. So itâs best to avoid smoke and cigarette smoking.

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    Will Medicine Help Me Breathe Better When I Exercise

    How to Use Your Asthma Inhalers & Equipment

    Yes. Exercising, particularly in cold air, may cause airway swelling or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction . Quick-relief asthma medicines, taken before exercise, usually control this. If you need repeated doses of quick-relief medicine during and after exercise talk with your doctor. Your medicines may need to be adjusted. Thanks to these medicines, many Olympic and professional athletes have successful sports careers even with their asthma.

    It is important for everyone, including people with asthma, to be as active as possible for good health. Talk with your doctor about how you can be physically active while keeping your asthma well-controlled.

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    How To Use Your Turbuhaler

    To get the most benefit, it is important to use the correct technique. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse to explain how to use your turbuhaler. Here is some guidance:

    Using your turbuhaler

    • Open: unscrew and remove the cap. Hold the turbuhaler upright.
    • Load the dose: twist the base anticlockwise and then back in the other direction until you hear a click. Your turbuhaler is now loaded with one dose of medicine
    • Breathe out: breathe out, away from the turbuhaler. Do not blow directly into the turbuhaler.
    • Inhale your dose: place the mouth piece in your mouth and form a seal with your lips. Breathe in deeply. Remove the turbuhaler and hold your breath for up to 10 seconds.
    • Close: replace the cap and twist until it is on properly.

    Cleaning and storing your turbuhaler: wipe the mouthpiece with a clean dry tissue. Do not wash the mouthpiece or allow it to get wet when cleaning. Keep the cap on when not in use. The device may clog if exhaled or dribbled into or if stored in an area of high humidity with the cap off or unsealed.

    When to start a new turbuhaler: there is a window under the mouthpiece on the outside of the turbuhaler called a dose indicator window. When it turns red it is time to get a new turbuhaler.

    Why Is The Correct Inhaler Technique Important

    • To get the most benefit from the medication, it is important to use the correct technique when using your inhaler. This is so you get the right amount of medication and that it reaches deep inside your lungs.
    • Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse to show you how to use your inhaler device.
    • Even if you’ve had asthma or COPD for a long time and have used the same inhaler for years, it’s still worth reminding yourself regularly how they work.
    • Read more about the different types of inhalers: MDIs, Turbuhaler, Accuhaler, Handihaler, Respimat, Ellipta inhaler and Breezhaler.

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    Where To Get Help

    The following organisations have a range of resources, including fact sheets and videos to help you take your asthma medicine properly:

    Combination Single Maintenance And Reliever Therapy

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    The guidelines were published in December in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologyand on the NHLBI website.

    The combination medication has been found to be more effective for helping you avoid unexpected trips to the emergency room or your doctors office, and can also help you avoid larger corticosteroid doses which with long-term use raise the risk of side effects such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cataracts, and glaucoma.

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    When Is A Turbuhaler Suitable

    Since the turbuhaler is a breath-activated device, to use the turbuhaler properly, you must be able to breathe in deeply.

    • Adults and children 7 years of age and older should be able to use the turbuhaler.
    • Some people, such as those with severe COPD may not able to breathe in well enough to activate the turbuhaler.

    If you are unsure if the turbuhaler is the correct device for you, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

    Using The Right Technique For Your Inhaler

    There are many different types of inhaler, so finding the right technique, especially if youve switched from one inhaler to another, can be tricky. Our inhaler videos can help you to learn the right technique for your specific type of inhaler.

    Find out how to:

    We also have information on how to help your child use their inhaler.

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