Tips for getting the most out of your inhalers

Tips for getting the most out of your inhalers

By J. Bruce Williams, MD
Internal Medicine

“Darn! My inhaler is out and I am going to have to call today, a Sunday, to get a refill…”

Spring is here! And that means asthma season is back, and with the nicer weather, pollen counts are high. Flowers are wonderful and the trees beautiful, but if you are like me, some of those plants have your number. The beautiful smells come with itchy eyes, sneezes, and for some, a serious amount of wheezing.

Patients are reaching for their inhalers more often, and sometimes getting into serious respiratory trouble, especially if their medication is running short. Inhalers are expensive, too, and so using them optimally is both financially and healthfully important.

Fortunately, a couple of tricks can really help maximize an asthma spray’s value.

The medication comes out fast and hard when you squeeze the canister, and it can be difficult to time your breath to inhale the dose well, plus with the energy of the release being so high, a lot of misted drug can zoom right out of your mouth. The trick is to use a ‘spacer’, and the simplest is a rolled up piece of paper, to about a one inch diameter. Tuck the sprayer in the far end, wrap your lips around the outside of the other end, and take your leisure squeezing and breathing! The tube holds the mist in place for a few seconds, letting you better coordinate your inhalation and improve substantially the amount of drug you get to where it is needed.

The second tip is to use a steroid inhaler daily if you need your rescue inhaler more than a few times a week. The rescue inhaler will become less effective the more you use it if you don’t directly treat the inflammation of the allergic response in your bronchial tubes with a low dose of cortisone type medication. The dose of the latter is small and will not cause harm to the rest of your system if used according to directions, but it will keep your rescue medication most beneficial!

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