types of inhalers for asthma

Inhalers for Asthma: Why You Need One

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with asthma, you probably know how challenging it can be. Because asthma is a chronic condition, people living with it can experience breathing difficulties or find it hard to perform day-to-day tasks.

In order to manage asthma, patients are usually recommended to take medications. One example would be portable asthma inhalers, sometimes called puffers, that are usually self-administered or used with the help of someone else.

Why do you need inhalers if you have asthma?

A doctor may suggest that you use inhalers since they aim to send medicine to your lungs that’ll provide relief from symptoms, especially during an asthma attack. There are three different types of asthma inhalers, each with their own mechanisms and purposes.

Metered dose inhalers (MDIs)

Most people are familiar with this type of asthma inhaler. MDIs are shaped like a boot (or a capital “L”) with a button at the top that releases medicine once it’s pressed. While these inhalers come with a set of instructions once you buy them, MDIs are often used the following way:

  1. Prepare or “prime” the inhaler, especially when you’re using it for the first time or after two weeks of non-usage.
  2. Shake the inhaler for five seconds, move it away from you, and press the button to release medicine.
  3. Wait for a few seconds and repeat the second step. Do this action four more times.

There are many types of MDIs available, some of which have built-in mechanisms that count how many doses are already used, and some that can even be connected to an app for the same purpose of dose tracking.

In some instances, especially among the children and the elderly, spacers can be used together with MDIs. These devices have a designated slot for an asthma inhaler and are tube-shaped so the medicine can stay in one space or area once it’s released. Spacers aim to promote slower breathing and ensure that more medicine reaches the lungs.

Dry powder inhalers (DPIs)

As the name suggests, these inhalers contain asthma medicine in powder form that’s inhaled in by the patient. DPIs can either come with multiple doses, or with a single dose, wherein the patient has to empty a capsule before using it.

DPIs are likely to come with their own set of instructions, but they’re used by following these steps:

  1. Remove the cap. Load a capsule into the inhaler if needed.
  2. Slowly exhale but not into the mouthpiece.
  3. Place the mouthpiece between your front teeth and close your lips around the inhaler.
  4. Deeply inhale through your mouth for two to three seconds.
  5. Once done, carefully remove the inhaler and breathe for as long as you can.
  6. Slowly exhale.

Soft mist inhalers (SMIs)

These types of inhalers for asthma, which are slightly larger than MDIs, work by releasing a low-velocity mist containing the medication. This allows the patient to slowly inhale medicine over time. Should you be recommended SMIs, here’s a guide on how these are often used:

  1. “Prime” the inhaler before use or after three or 21 days of non-usage by following instructions.
  2. Exhale and place the inhaler into your mouth. Close your lips around the inhaler.
  3. Slowly and deeply inhale. Once done, remove the inhaler
  4. Hold your breath for at least 10 seconds and exhale afterward.
  5. Close the inhaler’s cap.

Before using inhalers, consult a doctor or a specialist. They’ll help you determine the ideal inhaler for your condition and give necessary advice on how you should use them and how much of a dosage you’ll need. 

Once at home, try to religiously follow doctor’s orders by sticking to your planned schedule and/or dosage, and also supervise young children or elderly patients who may need help using asthma inhalers. Don’t forget to clean inhalers too, if needed, by following the instruction manuals that come with the device.