20 Signs You're Using Your Asthma Inhaler Correctly
In a previous post I described for you the 31 signs you are overusing your (bronchodilator) rescue inhaler. In this post I would like to provide you the signs you are using your rescue inhaler correctly.
Most doctors recommend asthmatics carry a rescue inhaler with them at all times. Not only that, but every asthmatic should have one at home, in the car, at work, school, day care, and grandma’s house.
The term “rescue” inhaler is actually a little misleading. An asthmatic should use the rescue inhaler at the first sign of breathing trouble. You should NOT wait until you are having a lot of trouble breathing. Most doctors also believe – as does this humble respiratory therapist and fellow asthmatic – that you cannot overdose on your rescue inhaler.
However, with the exception of a few hard luck asthmatics, frequent need of your rescue inhaler, most doctors believe, is an indication that your asthma is poorly controlled.
Likewise, most respiratory therapists (RTs) I know of highly recommend ALL asthmatics use their rescue inhaler with a spacer. The last study I read showed that a spacer can make the medicine work 175% better.
When I was a kid there were no manufactured spacers available, so my RT told me to use a toilet paper holder. Obviously, that wasn’t something I was overly eager to use at school.
Today, spacers are pretty high tech and are manufactured. To get a spacer you should talk to your doctor and he can either give you one or write a prescription so you can pick one up at your pharmacy.
The spacer works to evenly disperses the particles of medicine to help you breathe them in, rather than having the medicine hit the back of your throat and stay there. In this way more of the medicine gets into the lungs, and deeper.
Likewise, most asthma experts recommend all asthmatics have an Asthma Action Plan to help you know when to use your inhaler and when to call your doctor or go to the ER.
Now, knowing that all of my readers are Gallant Asthmatics who use their rescue inhaler exactly as prescribed (Right?), or you are at least on the road to becoming one (40% still use them improperly), I have composed a list here of what a healthy relationship with your bronchodilator looks like.
So, that in mind, you know you are using your rescue inhaler correctly when:
- You only use it when you actually need it.
- Your asthma is relatively controlled.
- You are vigilant and if you are using it too much, you call your doctor.
- You get a new Advair inhaler more often than a new rescue inhaler.
- It lasts the prescribed amount of time as opposed to you renewing it every week.
- Your prescription is for one inhaler instead of 3 or 4.
- You actually have your inhaler long enough for it to expire.
- You don’t have an asthma attack just because you forgot your inhaler.
- Someone actually says to you, “I haven’t seen you use your puffer in a while.”
- Your best friend is a person and not your puffer.
- You don’t get that slathery, icky taste of Ventolin in your mouth 20 times a day from blasting in into the back of your throat.
- Your spacer doesn’t whistle every time you use it.
- You actually use your spacer.
- You actually know what a spacer is.
- You NEVER use your Ventolin more often than every 4-6 hours, or your Xopenex more than every 6-8 hours (or as prescribed by your doctor).
- When you use it you take two puffs, 2-5 minutes apart.
- If you have exercise-induced asthma, you use it just prior to exercising as a preventative measure.
- Even though you don’t use it, you still carry it with you at all times.
- You keep one at all locations where you spend the most time, and you make sure this inhaler is not expired.
- You never use an inhaler that is over a year old (Have you tried inhaling expired Ventolin? Trust me, the stuff tastes awful.).
(If after reading this you suspect you are among the 40% who use their inhalers incorrectly – and I commend you for making this admission – you can click here or here for more information on proper rescue inhaler use with a spacer.)
John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).