At Banner Health, we’re here to help you understand how to manage your asthma effectively so you can focus on the things that matter most. If you ever have questions or concerns about whether or not you’re using your inhalers correctly, call your doctor to set up a consultation.
There are different types of inhalers that serve different purposes and require different techniques. Inhalers can help manage your asthma, but it’s important that you’re using them correctly for them to be effective. Keep in mind, too, that proper use of your inhaler needs to be combined with proactively avoiding your asthma triggers for the most successful management of your asthma. Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions or aren’t sure if you’re using your inhaler correctly.
Inhalers can be categorized by the type of medication they’re providing or by how they administer medication into your lungs.
You may be prescribed more than one kind of inhaler to help manage your asthma.
These inhalers help prevent flare-ups and keep symptoms from getting worse. They’re sometimes called “controller medicines” or “maintenance medicines” because they help control your asthma long-term. They do this by reducing the inflammation in your lungs and helping to prevent asthma symptoms from occurring. Your doctor will tell you how often to use it, usually once or twice a day. Be sure to continue using it whether or not you're having symptoms and even if you feel like you're doing better. It can take 2 to 4 weeks for the medication to start having a noticeable impact.
Rescue inhalers, also called “quick relief medicines,” are taken as-needed for short-term relief of symptoms when you have an asthma attack or the sudden onset of symptoms. They work by opening the airways of your lungs and relaxing the muscles of the airway walls to stop the constriction. They start working within minutes and are typically in effect for 4 to 6 hours.
There are three main delivery methods that inhalers use to get medication into your lungs: dry powder inhalers, metered dose inhalers and soft mist inhalers.
Dry powder inhalers work by delivering medicine into your lungs in powder form. Some are single-use where each dose needs to be loaded beforehand and some have a supply of medicine for multiple uses.
Metered dose inhalers have pressurized canisters inside that release a fine mist into your lungs. The pressurization helps to propel the medication into your lungs.
Soft mist inhalers are similar to metered dose inhalers but without the pressurization that propels the medication out. Instead, they release medicated mist into your mouth that you breathe in.
When your asthma is triggered by exercise, short-acting inhalers can make activities that need extra lung function, such as sports, yard work or singing, more doable and enjoyable. To help prevent symptoms, use your rescue inhaler 15 to 30 minutes before you start. Keep it on hand in case you have symptoms while you're exercising.
If cardiovascular activities often bring on symptoms, don't give up on exercise. Regular exercise can help you control your asthma by strengthening your lung muscles, making it easier to manage your weight and boosting your immune system. Instead, try different kinds of activities that are less challenging and avoid cold and dry conditions that might trigger symptoms.