Use asthma spray correctly

Whether metered aerosol or powder inhaler: a pharmacist explains what to consider when using it

Protect from heat and moisture: Powder inhalers stick together due to humidity, metered aerosols can explode if the heat is too intense

© Science Photo Library / Ian Hooton

The pluses

  • Metered aerosols and powder inhalers transport the drug directly into the airways. It can be used in low doses so that there are fewer side effects.
  • The effect of sprays with bronchodilator substances occurs quickly - important for the treatment of acute asthma attacks.
  • Metered aerosols and powder inhalers are available in many designs. "If you cannot cope with a preparation, we can often exchange it for a more suitable product with the same active ingredient after consultation with the doctor," explains Dr. Alexander Schmitz, pharmacy owner from Lower Saxony. Often, special attachments make it easier to use.

It's in there

Short- or long-acting bronchodilator agents and corticoids, which relieve the inflammation of the bronchial mucosa. With the ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), metered aerosols were switched to other propellants with hydrofluoroalkanes (HFA).

Dosing aerosol: The active ingredient is dissolved in a spray liquid containing propellant gas

© W & B / Astrid Zacharias

In the case of metered dose aerosols, the active ingredient is dissolved or distributed in a liquid that can contain alcohol as a solvent. Alcohol users should therefore be switched to powder inhalers.

In powder inhalers, the active ingredients are usually bound to sugar as carrier particles, such as lactose. "The amount contained is too small to trigger intolerance," says Schmitz.

Apply correctly

Shake the metered aerosols before use. Exhale before use and inhale deeply as you trigger the spray. Hold the aerosol upright and tilt your head back slightly. "Hold your breath for about ten seconds and then slowly exhale through your nose," advises pharmacist Schmitz.

With powder inhalers you first have to exhale deeply and then inhale quickly and vigorously after triggering. "Do not breathe into the device while doing this because the powder would stick together due to the humidity," explains Schmitz. Because of the power required, these products are not suitable for all patients.

Dr. Alexander Schmitz, owner of four pharmacies in northeast Lower Saxony, helped create the article

© W & B / Daniel Butowski

After using preparations containing cortisone, rinse your mouth and brush your teeth. Otherwise, active ingredient particles will remain in the oral cavity and promote fungal infections.

Keep it safe

Metered aerosols and powder inhalers must be protected from heat, direct sunlight, high humidity and frost. "Don't leave your medication in the car," advises the pharmacist Schmitz.

Powder inhalers stick together due to air humidity, metered aerosols become unusable in the heat and can explode in extreme cases. After opening the medication, clean the mouthpieces regularly with water. The pharmacy will provide information on correct disposal.