Asthma Inhalers Types

An asthma attack can stop you in your tracks. As the bronchial passages tighten and breathing becomes difficult, all other concerns fade. Whether triggered by exercise or environment, asthma symptoms rob you of your ability to breathe. With the use of asthma inhalers, you can learn to manage your condition.

Types of Asthma Inhalers

After you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Most likely, you’ll be prescribed an inhaler. Asthma inhalers are an effective way to administer medication directly to the lung. They are easy to use and therefore have transformed asthma treatment. With proper use, asthma symptoms can be both prevented and controlled, and patients can continue to lead normal lives.

Inhalers come in two basic configurations: metered-dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers. Both types are effective, and your doctor will help you choose the kind that is right for you. Take the time to learn how to use your new inhaler properly. Operator error is the number-one reason for inhaler malfunction.

Metered-Dose Inhalers

Metered-dose inhalers use a propellant to send a burst of medicine into the patient’s lung. A small, pressurized canister of medicine and propellant is attached a mouthpiece. To use this type of inhaler, the patient must prime the inhaler by pumping it one to four times. After the inhaler is primed, you exhale fully and then seal your lips around the mouthpiece. Finally you press down on the canister while slowly inhaling. The medicine is released into your mouth and flows into your lungs. Hold your breath for ten seconds before exhaling.

While some metered-dose asthma inhalers have a dosage counter, most do not. Therefore, in order to know when all medicine has been consumed, it is important to keep track of how often you use your inhaler. Metered-dose inhalers will continue to release propellant after all the medicine has been used. Although all metered-dose inhalers function in the same general way, be sure to read your inhaler’s instructions from the manufacturer. They will detail the proper use and care of your inhaler.

CFCs, HFAs, and The Ozone Layer

Old metered-dose inhalers used CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) to propel the medicine. CFCs have been shown to be harmful to the ozone layer, and their use has been banned. Now, metered-dose inhalers use HFAs (hydrofluoroalkanes). Both are equally effective, but HFAs deliver the medicine in a slower, less-pressurized burst. Because of this, patients accustomed to using CFC-based inhalers may think that their new HFA inhalers are not working properly.

CFC inhalers would chill the medicine before releasing it. Newer HFA inhalers release a softer, warmer stream of medicine. It is especially important to properly prime HFA inhalers. Since they use less pressure, it is more important to have the proper amount of medicine released. HFA inhalers also tend to become clogged more easily. They should be cleaned at least once a week.

Dry Powder Inhalers

Dry powder inhalers do not use a propellant. Instead, they require the user to breathe in sharply and draw the medicine into their lungs. Often shaped like a disk, dry powder inhalers require two steps to use them. First, the medicine must be measured out (usually by turning part of the device). After exhaling, the patient forms a seal around the mouthpiece and inhales deeply and quickly. Users should be especially careful not to blow the powder away as they exhale. Newer than metered-dose inhalers, dry powder inhalers for asthma treatment are becoming more common.

Choosing the Right Inhaler

If you are asthmatic it is important to choose the right inhaler for your needs.

Metered-dose asthma inhalers are small and highly portable. However, they require their users to:

  • inhale slowly and gently
  • release medicine and breath simultaneously
  • track doses.

As for dry-powder asthma inhalers:

  • breathing out can scatter medicine before it is inhaled
  • dosage can be tracked automatically
  • they require deep, fast breaths
  • humidity can affect medicine.

Resources

Asthma Society of Canada Staff. (2009). Lifestyle. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic.com Web site: http://www.asthma.ca/adults/lifestyle/exercise.php.

Health-Cares.net Staff. (2005). What’re asthma inhalers. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the Health-cares.net Web site: http://respiratory-lung.health-cares.net/asthma-inhaler.php.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Asthma. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021.

Tarkan, Laurie. (May 13, 2008). Rough transition to a new asthma inhaler. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the New York Times Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/health/13asth.html.