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Asthma Inhalers

Even if you are not one of the 11.5% of New Zealanders who have asthma, most will have heard of a Ventolin inhaler or blue inhaler. So why might you need more than just the blue inhaler?










The latest treatment is called AIR (anti-inflammatory reliever) therapy where an inhaler is used that combines both reliever and preventer. In AIR therapy, these inhalers are often used regularly for keeping down the swelling and mucous and are also used as a reliever, in times of need to open the airway.

Many inhalers are now dry powder inhalers, which many complain often feel like nothing is coming out of them. That is because the amount of drug required is very small and you simply cannot feel it as it enters your mouth as you do with the aerosol inhalers.

If you do have an aerosol inhaler, it is best used with a spacer. Spacers are clear plastic tubes with a mouthpiece or mask on one end and a hole for your inhaler at the other. 50% more medicine enters the lungs when a spacer is used. In an emergency, when you are finding it difficult to breathe a spacer is much easier to use. Plus, less medicine gets left in the mouth which reduces any side effects from preventer inhalers.

As winter (and viruses) approaches, many people find that their asthma can get slightly worse. It pays to have a talk to your doctor or pharmacist so you can put an action plan together. This involves monitoring your symptoms and changing your medication dose if your symptoms worsen.

So  be sure to ask your pharmacist about your asthma medication. We are here to help you.

To understand this we first need to dive in to some of the details of how asthma affects your body. Asthma is a condition where your breathing tubes become narrowed, inflamed and swollen with a lot of mucus produced. This in turn causes wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

The blue inhaler is referred to as a reliever inhaler. It works by opening up your airways, allowing you to breathe again. If you have mild asthma, this is all you need to feel better again.

However, the reliever does not address the swelling in the airways nor the over production of mucous.  The red/orange inhalers are preventer inhalers. These should be used every day to keep down swelling and decrease the mucous.  Reducing airway swelling and the production of mucous when you have moderate to severe asthma is very important as it means you will not have to use your reliever as much, but more importantly, when you do use the reliever, it will work oh so much better.


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