Asthma inhalers: Which one's right for you?

Here's information that will help you weigh the pros and cons of different asthma inhalers.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Asthma inhalers are hand-held portable devices that deliver medication to your lungs. A variety of asthma inhalers are available to help control asthma symptoms. Finding the right one can help you get the right dose of medication to prevent or treat asthma attacks.

There are two main types of asthma inhalers.

Metered dose inhalers

These inhalers consist of a pressurized canister containing medication that fits into a boot-shaped plastic mouthpiece. With most metered dose inhalers, medication is released by pushing the canister into the boot.

One type of metered dose inhaler releases medication automatically when you inhale. Some metered dose inhalers have counters so that you know how many doses remain. If there's no counter, you'll need to track the number of doses you've used to tell when the inhaler's low on medication.

In some situations, such as for children or older adults, using an asthma spacer with an inhaler may be helpful. A spacer holds medication in a tube between the inhaler and your mouth after it's released, making it easier to inhale the full dose.

Releasing the medication into the spacer gives you time to inhale more slowly, decreasing the amount of medicine that's left on the back of your throat and increasing the amount that reaches your lungs.

One type of inhaler has a built-in spacer. Others can be used with a separate spacer that attaches to the inhaler.

Dry powder inhaler

These inhalers don't use a chemical propellant to push the medication out of the inhaler. Instead, the medication is released by breathing in a deep, fast breath. Available types include a dry powder tube inhaler, a powder disk inhaler and a single-dose powder disk inhaler.

May 09, 2015 See more In-depth