10 Tips to Getting Yourself Out of Inhaler Trouble

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
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With an estimated 24 million Americans currently dealing with asthma in the United States, it is not surprising that people are looking for ways to better manage their disease.  One big issue: having an asthma attack when you don’t have your inhaler handy.

Prevention is key

One of the best ways to avoid being stuck without medication is to prevent the asthma attack in the first place. Having an Asthma Action Plan including good communication with your physician, frequent checkups, a good controller, and maintenance medication as needed can help prevent attacks.

Refill before your inhaler is empty

Refill your rescue inhaler when you still have some left — don’t wait until the inhaler is empty. We try to refill our children’s rescue inhalers when we still have 10-20 puffs left.  This also enables us to keep the initial inhalers (with enough doses for an attack) as extras to stash in a backpack, purse, or car in case we leave the new ones behind.

Make it easy to remember by setting reminders

It helps to have your pharmacy auto-fill your medication if you know how frequently you need it. You also can set a weekly or twice-monthly reminder in your digital calendar to check dosages. My girls check every time they use their inhaler and let me know if it’s below 20 doses. I also check with the school nurse every month.

Double check that you have your inhaler, part 1

In the hustle and bustle of the morning, it can be hard to remember to grab your rescue inhaler. Some tips that have worked for us include setting an alarm to remind yourself to grab it about 15 minutes before you are set to leave the house.

Double check that you have your inhaler, part 2

It can also help to have a nighttime checklist and get it packed the night before. Our final line of defense is literally a note stuck to our front door. It reads: “Do you have your inhaler? Do you have your EpiPen? Do you have your glasses? Do you have your homework?” and has to be read on the way out the door.

Epinephrine may help in dire straights

If you are struggling to breathe while waiting for an ambulance, an epinephrine injection can help to slow or stop the attack. If you frequently find yourself in life-threatening situations with your asthma, you should discuss whether a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector such as EpiPen or Adrenaclick is right for you.

Consider drinking coffee or tea

The caffeine in coffee and tea has been shown to produce small improvements in airway function for up to four hours.  While caffeine should never be used in place of medication, it might allow just enough improvement to get you to the proper medical care.

Know where to go in an emergency situation

Talk with your physician ahead of time about where to go if you are having an attack and either do not have your medication, or it’s not being completely resolved by your medication. In most instances they will want you to head to the ER.

Don’t drive with an attack

Remember, don’t drive yourself if you are struggling to breathe — call 911 instead.  Ambulances carry medications and can more quickly get you to the care you’ll need.

Remember that asthma kills

Asthma is a serious disease. In the United States, about 3,400 deaths a year have been linked to asthma, and worldwide, the annual toll is estimated to be 250,000. Please take your condition seriously and work with your healthcare provider to get the best possible control of your disease.