Asthma Inhalers and Their Uses

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects millions of people worldwide, causing symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. While asthma can’t be cured, it can be effectively managed, allowing individuals to lead active and fulfilling lives. Inhalers are essential tools in asthma management, providing relief from symptoms and helping prevent asthma attacks.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways in response to certain triggers. Common triggers include allergens like pollen and dust mites, respiratory infections, cold air, exercise, and exposure to irritants such as smoke or pollution.

Asthma Symptoms

  • A whistling or squeaky sound while breathing.
  • Difficulty breathing, often described as feeling “out of breath.”
  • Persistent cough, especially at night or early in the morning.
  • A sensation of pressure or constriction in the chest.

Uses of Inhalers

Inhalers are medical devices designed to deliver medication directly into the lungs. They play an important role in asthma management and serve several purposes

Relief of Acute Symptoms (Rescue Inhalers): Rescue inhalers, also known as short-acting beta-agonists (SABAs), provide rapid relief from asthma symptoms during an asthma attack or when symptoms worsen suddenly. They work by relaxing the smooth muscles of the airways, opening them up and allowing for easier breathing. Common SABAs include albuterol and levalbuterol.

Maintenance Medication (Controller Inhalers): Controller inhalers contain long-acting medications that help prevent asthma symptoms and reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. These medications include corticosteroids, long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs), and leukotriene modifiers. Controller inhalers must be used regularly, even when symptoms are under control, to maintain stable lung function.

Combination Inhalers: Some inhalers combine both rescue and controller medications in a single device, simplifying asthma management for some patients. These combination inhalers often contain both a corticosteroid and a LABA.

How to Use Inhalers

Using an inhaler correctly is essential for the medication to reach the lungs effectively. Here are some key tips for proper inhaler technique-

  • Shake the Inhaler: Before each use, shake the inhaler to ensure that the medication is well-mixed.
  • Breathe Out: Exhale fully to create space in your lungs for the medication.
  • Hold the Inhaler Correctly: Hold the inhaler upright with your thumb on the base and your index and middle fingers on the top. Your lips should form a tight seal around the mouthpiece.
  • Inhale Slowly and Deeply: Start inhaling slowly and deeply through your mouth as you press down on the inhaler to release the medication. Continue inhaling for a few seconds to ensure the medication reaches your lungs.
  • Hold Your Breath: After inhaling, hold your breath for 10 seconds to allow the medication to settle in your airways.
  • Rinse Your Mouth: If using a corticosteroid inhaler, rinse your mouth with water after use to reduce the risk of oral thrush.

Inhalers are valuable tools for asthma patients, offering both symptom relief and long-term control. By using inhalers correctly and consistently, individuals with asthma can lead healthier, more comfortable lives and reduce the risk of asthma-related complications.


You should use your rescue inhaler as needed when you experience acute asthma symptoms like wheezing or shortness of breath. If you find yourself using it frequently, consult your healthcare provider for a review of your asthma management plan.

Many asthma medications are considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as uncontrolled asthma poses risks to both the mother and baby. However, it’s essential to discuss your asthma management plan with your doctor, who can prescribe medications suitable for your specific situation while considering potential risks and benefits.

Yes, using a spacer with your inhaler is recommended, especially for corticosteroid inhalers. A spacer helps ensure that more of the medication reaches your lungs, reduces the risk of oral thrush, and makes it easier to coordinate inhalation with medication release.

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