Asthma is a condition that affects the airways that lead into your lungs. The most common treatment for asthma is to take medicine through an inhaler.
Our doctors make it easy and convenient for you to stay in control of your asthma. Fill in our short questionnaire to let us know which inhaler you usually use. The doctor will check that the treatment is still safe for you and give you a prescription. Delivery is included.
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Types of asthma inhalers
Types of inhalers
- Reliever inhalers help to stop your symptoms when they happen
- Preventer inhalers lower the chance of you getting symptoms
- Combination inhalers do both of these things
Each different type of inhaler is usually the same colour. This is to help you choose the right one when you’re experiencing an attack, rather than having to recognise the name of the medication on the inhaler.
- Reliever inhalers usually blue
- Preventer inhalers usually brown
- Combination inhalers vary
Inhalers are used to breathe in medicine. There are 3 types of asthma inhalers. They work by:
- helping to stop your symptoms when they happen (‘reliever’ inhalers)
- lowering the chance of getting symptoms (‘preventer’ inhalers)
- combining these two things and both relieving and preventing symptoms (‘combination’ inhalers)
Reliever inhalers are usually blue and preventer inhalers are usually brown. Combination inhalers come in a range of colours.
Each of these types of inhalers might work in a different way to release the medicine.
This is the most common group of inhalers. They contain bronchodilator drugs that allow the airways in your lungs to become wider and let more air in. Examples include Salbutamol and Ventolin. They’re usually blue.
You should only need to use a blue inhaler when you feel unwell. They can stop asthma symptoms quickly and prevent an asthma attack within minutes.
If you’re using your blue inhaler a lot, you should speak to your doctor about an asthma review to see if there are better ways to manage your condition.
Preventer inhalers are used every day. They contain steroids that reduce the inflammation in your airways. Examples include Clenil Modulite. They’re usually brown but sometimes red.
Usually you will use your brown inhaler twice a day every day. Depending on how serious your symptoms are, your doctor might prescribe you to use your inhaler more or less often. It can take somewhere between 2 and 6 weeks for the medicine to start to work well.
If you follow your treatment plan, you may not need to use an inhaler later on in life.
Preventer inhalers cannot be used to relieve the symptoms of an asthma attack.
Combination inhalers contain long-acting reliever medicine as well as preventer medicine. Examples include Symbicort Turbohaler. They come in different colours.
Like preventer inhalers, combination inhalers are used every day. If you use combination inhalers you’ll also need a reliever inhaler to use when you get asthma symptoms because combination inhalers cannot relieve symptoms quickly.
Like reliever inhalers, long-acting asthma inhalers work by helping to open the airways. The medicine they release lasts for longer than standard reliever inhalers – up to 12 hours.
Salmeterol and Formoterol are common long-acting inhalers. They’re usually green.
A spacer is an oval plastic container that’s used with an inhaler to make it work better. You attach your inhaler to one end of the spacer. On the other end is a mouthpiece.
When you press on your inhaler it releases the medicine into the spacer. Then you inhale it slowly through the mouthpiece. This helps to deliver the medicine straight to your lungs.
The spacer should be cleaned regularly as your spit can make its walls sticky, and stop the medicine from flowing smoothly from one end to the other. Spacers are sometimes called chambers.
The standard metered-dose inhaler (MDI) is a small can fitted into a plastic body with a mouthpiece. Each time you press the can into the plastic body, one dose of drug is released. You need to press and inhale the medication. This type of inhaler is also known as an evohaler.
Although this is the most commonly used inhaler, the MDI is often used incorrectly. Patients often forget to shake it before pressing, inhale at the wrong time or forget to hold their breath after inhalation. It’s now recommended that adults as well as children use an MDI with a spacer because it works better.
There are different types of dry-powder inhalers (DPIs) and they usually rely on a manual mechanism to release one dose of the powder into the mouthpiece before it’s inhaled.
The most common DPIs are the turbohaler and the diskhaler. For both systems, you have to turn or twist the body until a ‘click’ sound signals that a dose has been released and is ready to be inhaled.
A breath-activated inhaler (BAI) also contains dry powder. You do not need to pump or press for the medication to be released. All you need to do is take a deep breath, which will make you inhale a single dose.
Asthma UK (2016). Asthma Inhalers, Medicines and Treatments. [online] Available at: https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/inhalers-medicines-treatments/ [accessed 3rd June 2019].
NHS (2018). Asthma. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/ [accessed 3rd June 2019].