Following the article in yesterday’s Daily Mail I thought a brief explanation of what inhalers should be used when, might be worthwhile.

Over my more than 30 years in General Practice the treatment of Asthma has improved dramatically.

Asthma inhaler being used by boy in blue shirtI feel it is most important that any patient diagnosed as having Asthma should fully understand how and when to use their medication.  As with any chronic medical condition patients need to take some responsibility for their illness.  Most GP surgeries will have a partner with a special interest/responsibility for asthma and also a Practice nurse who is likely to have special training.  Any patient who is unsure about any aspect of their treatment should ideally consult with such a Healthcare Professional.  Inhaler technique is very important, and I suggest patients take their inhaler with them to their appointment.  Different inhalers require different techniques, and if your medication is changed you should ensure you know how to use it.  UK Asthma guidelines suggest a stepwise approach to Asthma treatment starting with a short acting reliever inhaler (usually blue) which is used on a as required basis.  If this is either not working or having to be used too much (more than 4 times a day) the next step is to add in a preventative steroid inhaler which treats airway inflammation and must be used on a regular daily basis (usually twice a day).  In my experience patients often tend to either forget of choose not to use these regularly as they do not feel ” ill” enough! or are worried about using steroids.  The nurse I work with has asthma and freely admits to being in this group of patients! Step 3 is to add in a long acting inhaler which opens the airway.  These work similarly to the short acting inhalers but should once again be used on a regular basis.  Some inhalers combine the steroid and long acting inhaler in one device.  These long acting inhalers should never replace the short acting reliever inhaler.  Any patients who are unsure about their treatment should consult their GP.  Asthma UK have an excellent website if you want further information.


Dr Roger Goulds

Dr Roger Goulds has over 30 years experience as a General Practitioner in both the NHS and private sector. He has also worked in health screening and is very keen on early diagnosis and disease prevention. He has a special interest in sports and musculoskeletal medicine and works with professional sports men and women.