If you or a loved one suffers from asthma, then there is a need to understand the importance of using effective asthma treatments in controlling symptoms in the short and long term. Having the correct asthma medication at hand can save your life and can ensure that you live a perfectly normal life with minimal asthma worries. Fortunately, there are inhalers that have been specifically made to deal with various asthma related issues.
An inhaler is a device that contains medicine, which is breathed in (inhaled) to alleviate the symptoms associated with asthma. In inhaler brings about a faster acting effect compared to taking a tablet or liquid, for example, because the medicine goes directly to the airways.
There are various inhaler devices available for use, as the needs of each person differs. These inhalers are usually split into four main groups:
- Standard MDIs (pressurised metered dose inhalers)
- Breath-activated Inhalers (MDIs and dry powder inhalers)
- Spacer devices.
MDIs have been used as effective containers of asthma medication for almost 50 years, and have helped to deliver various types and doses of the treatment. The canister contains an inactive pressurised gas that releases a dose with each ‘puff’ when the top of the inhaler is pressed down. These inhaler types are the easiest to use, usually small and also very portable. When in use, the user must co-ordinate between their breathing and the pressing of the canister. These inhalers are sometimes known as evohalers and are the most commonly used inhalers. However, due to the common lack of correct use its full effect is not often experienced. Some of these include: sharp inhalations at the wrong time, forgetting to prime the inhaler, and forgetting to hold your breath long enough after inhalation.
These inhalers provide an alternative to standard MDIs and although some may still be pressurised MDIs, they do not require an activated canister to operate. An example is the autohaler which is activated by the breath of the user. Some dry powder inhalers also act as breath-activated inhalers, these are triggered by breathing into the mouthpiece which then causes the medicine to be released into the airways. Turbohalers, Accuhalers, Clickhalers, Novolizers, Diskhalers, and Easyhalers are all dry powder breath activated inhalers. For this reason, a clear understanding and good technique is required to get the medicinal powder into the lungs successfully.
There are slight differences in how each dry powder inhaler works, but generally less co-ordination is required to use them successful, compared to standard MDIs. The only downside is that they are usually a little bigger than the standard MDIs and so are not as discreet or portable.
Spacer devices operate with the use of pressurised MDIs and usually have a container between the inhaler and mouthpiece. This acts as a reservoir bank where the medication is held when the inhaler is pressed. This ensures that the treatment is held in the spacer till you breathe it in. For this reason, spacer devices are one of the most effective at getting medicine into the lungs; this means that you do not need a high level of co-ordination to use it.
There are several spacer devices available including Optichamber, Nebuchamber and Vortex; some spacers may fit your MDI, and some could be brand specific.
Nebulisers are devices that convert the liquid form of the short-acting asthma medication into an aerosol like mist. This is then breathed in through a face mask. Nebulisers do not increase the efficacy or dosage of the inhaled treatment, they simply make breathing of the asthma medication easier for those who become fatigued easily, or find it difficult to breathe properly when using standard MDIs. These devices are usually used in hospitals where severe asthma attacks have occurred and the patient is unable to breathe properly. These devices are used less nowadays but are still effective in providing large doses of the medicine to be inhaled when required. Co-ordination is not required when using a nebuliser as simply breathing in and out will released the medicine directly into the lungs.