What Not to Do With Your Asthma Inhaler

As most people know, inhalers are an important part of most successful asthma management programs. Considering how many people use them and how critical they are to managing asthma and preventing asthma attacks, the number of patients who make mistakes with their inhalers is shocking.

In a recent survey of 1,000 people with asthma, about half of the respondents weren’t even using controller medications, such as asthma inhalers. And, among the half who did use inhalers, an overwhelming amount – 86%, had trouble controlling their asthma symptoms.  This seems to suggest that most asthmatics simply aren’t using their inhalers correctly.

Though alarming, the statistics aren’t necessarily surprising. According to Summit Shah MD, an allergist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, “It is actually very difficult to use an inhaler properly.”

As we’ve blogged about before, improper technique tops the list.

Overuse of inhalers is a close second.  When using a rescue inhaler, one to four puffs should be sufficient. More than that and the patient should consult his health care provider, who may need to adjust the medication or treatment plan.

Similarly, the frequency of rescue inhaler use should be monitored. Rescue inhalers are intended for occasional use to stave off acute asthma attacks. Using a rescue inhaler more than two days a week suggests that the patient also needs to be on a prophylactic (maintenance or controller) inhaler.

Although all patients are encouraged to talk to their own provider, SRxA’s Word on Health is  pleased to provide a number of simple asthma inhaler tips to help people use them correctly:

  • Sit upright
  • Shake the inhaler
  • Exhale completely
  • Use an inhaler with a spacer [device]
  • If you’re using a spacer device, spray the medicine into the spacer and then take in a slow, deep breath through the spacer while creating a tight seal around the mouth of the spacer with your lips
  • After breathing in the medication, hold your breath for 10 seconds
  • Repeat after one minute

Other asthma inhaler tips really come down to common sense, such as keeping inhalers in a safe place away from pets and children and where it won’t get damaged.

Here’s to better puffing!

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