What To Do With Expired Asthma Inhalers

Patient Expert

I went on a field trip to Poughkeepsie New York to the Culinary Institute of America last week. I went to meet a Chef colleague and have lunch with their student food allergy group. Poughkeepsie is about 90 minutes by train from New York City. Halfway through my journey I was rifling around in my purse and I saw my rescue inhaler -- my old CFC inhaler. I took the canister out of its plastic case: Exp: 09/08.

Uh oh.

Here I am miles from home with an old inhaler. What if the cold air triggers my asthma? Or what if during lunch something happens and I need an inhaler, a non-expired inhaler? My mind started to go in some very bad directions.

I have a new Pro-Air HFA inhaler in my cabinet, and we've all been talking about the inhaler transition for months but I didn't do the most important transition: new inhalers into my various purses and out with the old inhalers.

Can you blame me? I have a sentimental attachment to my inhaler. Countless times over an asthmatic lifetime my inhaler has been the lifeline. It goes with me everywhere, there is one in every purse, in every glove compartment, my travel kits, my bathroom and kitchen cabinet -- my apartment is littered with inhalers.

But I think I may still be in a bit of denial about the transition. Because here I was, on a trip with my inhaler -- my trusty Warrick Albuterol inhaler in the white plastic casing -- and it may no longer be useful. I may be carrying around a dud.

Doctors and pharmacists have told me that your pills are still usable up two years post expiration. Check with your doctor about expired meds in your cabinet.

There are some medicines that must be replaced when they expire, however. Epinephrine auto injectors are notoriously unstable after expiration. Those of us who have them are all encouraged to replace Epinephrine auto injectors often.

But what about rescue inhalers for asthmatics?

I asked a colleague, Clifford W. Bassett, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine and Otolaryngology at The Long Island College Hospital and he said, "The official answer is never use an inhaler past the manufacturer's expiration date."


So I guess that means it's time to throw out my expired (and much beloved) Warrick inhalers for they all expired in fall 2008. For a while though, to be honest, I will carry both.

This is a good reminder: have you checked all of your old CFC inhaler expiration dates? Have you replaced them with new inhalers? DO IT Now, don't wait until, like me, you are miles from home and feeling anxious.

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