Asthma Puffer Types

The American market never had so many drugs available to consumers as it has now. Did you know that there are currently over 20,000 prescription drugs approved for marketing in the US? 

Asthma medication also comes in many forms, colors, and shapes, and the more options we have, the more confusing things get. Let’s review in this article asthma puffer types that can be found in pharmacies across the US. 

Types Of Asthma Puffers 

Asthma puffers are classified into relievers ( or short-acting bronchodilators), preventers ( which are the steroid inhalers), and long-acting bronchodilators.

  • Reliever inhalers quickly and effectively ease symptoms of an asthma attack. They contain short acting bronchodilators that relax the muscle of the bronchi (airways). Salbutamol and terbutaline, which come in different brands but often they are colored in blue, Always read the labels, as other inhalers which contain other active ingredients may be colored in blue. For some individuals with asthma, these relievers are used when needed, and no other drugs are used. However, those who need to use relievers three times weekly or more will typically need preventative inhalers as well. 
  • Preventer inhalers usually contain steroid drugs, are used daily and are created to prevent symptoms and acute attacks. Steroids have powerful anti-inflammatory effects reducing the swelling in the airways. In case of a flare up, these inhalers may be used more frequently. Unlike relievers, preventer inhalers don’t work right away. It takes about six weeks to get the maximum benefits from these drugs. Examples of steroid  inhalers include beclometasone, budesonide and mometasone. There are non-steroid preventer inhalers like sodium cromoglicate and  nedocromil, however, they are typically less effective than steroids. Some people have the symptoms well controlled with preventer inhalers and may need very little, or no need at all to use reliever inhalers. Traditionally preventer inhalers used to be colored in brown, while the relievers in blue. However, asthma inhalers have other colors too nowadays. 
  • Long-acting bronchodilator inhalers work in the same way with relievers but have longer action (up to 12 hours). Examples of inhalers in this group include salmeterol and formoterol. These drugs are commonly recommended in combination with steroids, when the steroid inhaler doesn’t control the symptoms enough. For example, salmeterol and fluticasone combo, marked as Seretide inhaler, is colored in purple. 

Types Of Asthma Puffer Devices

Asthma puffers are the main therapy for asthma. They are handheld devices that hold medicine that is taken by breathing in or inhaling. A doctor or pharmacist can help you find the right one for you so you can use it correctly and get the most benefit from the medication. Here are the main types of asthma puffers:

  • Metered dose inhalers (MDIs). These puffers had been around for decades. They are based on a pressurized container where medication is placed and delivered through a mouthpiece. The drug is released by simply pressing the top of the inhaler. Some devices release the drugs automatically when you take a breath in, while the newer ones use wireless technology and help you count and track the doses on your phone. There are also  separate dose counters you can buy, if the device does not come with a counter.  Some may also purchase a spacer that holds the medication between the inhaler and the mouth, allowing a person to inhale slower the drug.
  • Breath activated (Dry powder) inhalers rely on your breathing rather than a propeller to push the drug into the lungs. Some devices hold a single dose, while others hold up to 200 doses.
  • Soft mist inhaler. These devices come in larger sizes than MDIs or dry powder inhalers. They release the medication in a mist that is inhaled in the lungs and an additional valved holding chamber or a face mask can be used with them. It takes longer to inhale a dose with this device compared with the other you. 
  • Other devices are also available for those who can’t use MDIs, dry powder or soft mist inhalers. For example, small children and infants need a MDI with a spacer which is attached to a face mask. Nebulizers convert the liquid medicine into a fine mist that is inhaled through a mouthpiece or a mask. Nebulizers are great options for young children and those who need large doses of medicine.  

As the research and technology advance, we will likely see in the future more anti-asthma drugs and more types of inhaler devices, as well. There are two key components of effective treatment: having the right medication and using the inhaler properly to get the medicine into the lungs. The doctor will prescribe you the medication that is most likely to benefit you. Next, you have to make sure you use the device correctly and you will need to get full training every time you start using a new device. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists can all assist you with questions about asthma inhalers.  

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