Asthma Information > Medicines & Treatments » How Do I Take My Asthma Medicine
How Do I Take My Asthma Medicine
Most asthma medicines are given by inhalers. There are a variety of different types of inhaler. Tablets may also be given as part of your treatment. Whichever inhaler you have, it's important that you use it correctly. This helps send the medicine straight to where it's needed, inside the airways of your lungs. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will help you choose the best device for you and show you how to use it correctly.
What is a spacer?
A spacer is a large plastic container, usually in two halves that click together. At one end there is a mouthpiece and at the other a hole for the aerosol inhaler to fit in.There are several different brands of spacer, which fit inhalers and are available on prescription (including Volumatic, Babyhaler and Aerochamber). The child's Aerochamber is not currently available on prescription. All these devices are available to buy from the Asthma Society at cost price plus postage and packaging. Please call the Asthma Society office on 01 8178886 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spacers are very important because:
- They make aerosol inhalers easier to use and more effective
- You get more medicine into your lungs than you could using just the inhaler on its own
- They trap the medicine inside the spacer so you don't have to worry about pressing the inhaler and breathing in at exactly the same time
- They are a convenient and compact alternative to a nebuliser.
- Spacers work just as well as nebulisers in acute attacks of Asthma
- They help reduce the possibility of side effects from the higher doses of inhaled steroids by reducing the amount of medicine which is swallowed and absorbed into the body.
How to use a spacer device:
- Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist should show you how to use your inhaler and spacer properly
- Make sure that the spacer you have been given fits your inhaler
- Put one puff of your inhaler into the spacer and breathe in deeply through the mouthpiece. Hold your breath for ten seconds (or for as long as is comfortable) then breathe out slowly. It is best to take at least two deeply held breaths for each puff of your inhaler. If you find it difficult to take deep breaths, taking ten smaller breaths is just as good
- Repeat the step above for each dose/puff needed
- Wash your spacer once a month - leave it to drip-dry as this helps to prevent the medication sticking to the sides
- Using metal or anti-static spacers can help to make sure that most of the medicine gets into your lungs
Spacers should be replaced at least every year, especially if you use them daily.
Spacers work as well as nebulisers in severe attacks of asthma.
For further information see our "How to use a Spacer Device" online video
When is a nebuliser used?
A nebuliser is a machine, which creates a mist of medicine which is breathed in through a mask or mouthpiece. They are most often used to give high doses of a reliever medicine in an emergency. With so many improved inhaler devices and spacers around, there is less and less need for nebulisers. However, if you have very severe asthma, your hospital consultant may prescribe one.
Many people find that complementary therapies, particularly yoga, acupuncture and homeopathy, seem to improve their asthma symptoms. However, there is little scientific evidence that complementary treatments used on their own are effective. That is why it is better to regard them as 'complementary' rather than 'alternative'. If you want to try one of the many complementary treatments available, tell your doctor and do not stop taking your normal asthma medication.