What is Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term lung condition causing breathing difficulties. An ‘asthma attack‘, where a sufferer becomes helpless because of the inability to breathe comfortably, may be triggered by various factors. They include exposure to cold, inhalation of dust, anxiety, or allergy. Emergency medication can be kept ready in case of an emergency. Some medicines may be taken orally, and some may be inhaled. There are special instruments used for administering asthma medicines for inhalation.
What are Asthma Inhalers?
An asthma inhaler is an instrument which administers asthma medication by inhalation. They come in many shapes and sizes, as can be seen in this NHS infographic. A doctor must always prescribe asthma inhalers, but they can be self-administered by the patient, and the medicine usually provides immediate relief. Inhalers are generally quite portable and can be easily carried in a purse or handbag or pocket. There are other instruments for administering asthma medication, such as the nebulizer, which is administered in chronic cases. But an asthma inhaler is relatively simple to use and can be kept nearby on standby, to be taken in times of emergency. Many doctors recommend taking a certain amount of medicine through the inhaler every morning and evening. When diligently taken, the inhaled medication can have the effect of reducing emergency attacks. It may even prevent them entirely.
How Do Asthma Inhalers Work?
Asthma inhalers work by injecting a puff of medicine into the lungs through the mouth of the patient. The inhaler is inserted into the oral cavity, and some pressure is exerted by hand to release a measured dose of medication. This medication is then breathed into the lungs by the patient.
There are several different types of medicine which can be taken by inhalation, and they work in various ways:
- Inhalers commonly administer Beta-agonists. They are the first medicines in the line of defense against an emergency asthma attack. They work quickly to provide immediate relief.
- Oral corticosteroids can also be administered through inhalers. These are medicines which aid in opening up the airways and reducing swelling.
- Anticholinergics are also administered by inhalers. They inhibit the production of mucus in the airways, thereby opening them up. These medicines, however, are not fast-acting and take much longer to have an effect than other inhaler medications.
- Combination medicines: Some patients take quick working medicines such as beta-agonists in combination with the slow-working anticholinergics. This requires the use of more than one inhaler, one after the other, in carefully regulated doses at certain times of the day – usually morning and evening.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Inhalers?
In general, inhaled medicines are less likely to produce adverse side effects than oral medication. In the case of inhaled medicines, the lowest possible dose should be administered to minimize any potential side effects.
Asthma treatment tends to emphasize minimizing the obstruction in the airways. For this treatment, inhaled steroids have proven to be most effective, although excessive dosage can have the side-effect of suppressing the hypothalamus and the adrenal glands. So it’s important to take asthma medication under the supervision of an experienced doctor.
Prevention – Better Than Cure
Taking regular, prescribed doses has the effect of reducing the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks. It can make asthma a manageable condition rather than a potentially fatal disease. Some patients, especially young children or elderly people, may have trouble in administering the inhaler themselves. In this case, a nebulizer may be used to ensure that the medicines are correctly delivered. If taken regularly under medical guidance, these medicines can prevent asthma attacks.
In extreme cases, asthma has proved fatal, yet it doesn’t need to be. Asthma inhalers are readily available on prescription from a doctor and with proper care, management, and medication, the condition can be controlled in the vast majority of cases.