Your Guide to Asthma Inhalers:

Reliever Inhaler:

Reliever inhalers, which are usually blue, are designed to act quickly to treat the symptoms of asthma in an emergency. When you’re having an asthma attack your reliever inhaler gets the medicine straight to your lungs, so that it can relax the muscles surrounding your airways. This should help your airways open more widely and make it easier to breathe again.

Anyone diagnosed with asthma will be prescribed a reliever inhaler; this is so that you can relieve asthma symptoms quickly.

You should use your reliever inhaler as soon as you notice asthma symptoms. It will help you get your asthma under control and ward off an asthma attack.

Preventer Inhaler:

A preventer inhaler (usually brown) helps medicine get into your airways, so that it can help to prevent and reduce the inflammation and sensitivity that asthma can cause. This should mean that when you are around one of your triggers your lungs are less likely to react as they are not as sensitive. Unlike the reliever inhaler, the preventer inhaler is for long term use.

You may still need to use your reliever inhaler, but if you’re using your preventer inhaler correctly it should help prevent asthma symptoms.

The preventer inhaler works by building up the protective effect over time, so it’s best to take it every day (usually in the morning and evening), even if you feel fine.

These are the two main types of inhalers prescribed, but they aren’t the only types of inhalers used to treat asthma. For more information about inhalers see the Asthma UK’s guide to using your inhalers.

Administering your Medication:

Inhalers can come in different designs, hold different types of medication, and are administered in different ways.

Metered dose inhalers:

These inhalers have a pressurised canister that contains medication which fits into a boot-shaped plastic mouthpiece. Generally, medication is released by pushing the canister into the boot. There is also a type of metered dose inhaler that 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, or you can buy a separate counter which tells you when your inhaler is low on medication.


A lot of people use spacers with their metered dose inhaler. A spacer is a large, empty device, usually made out of plastic. They can help you to get the best from your asthma medication as they make it easier to get the right amount of medicine straight to where it’s needed, meaning you could be using less medicine overall. According to Asthma UK using a spacer can also reduce the risk of side effects from your asthma medicine.

Dry Powder Inhaler:

These inhalers release medication when you breathe in a deep, fast breath, rather than it being pushed by a chemical propellant out of the inhaler. There are multiple-dose devices, which hold up to 200 doses, and single dose devices, which you fill with a capsule each treatment.

Top Tips:

  • Always rinse your mouth with water after using your inhaler to avoid soreness in your mouth.
  • If your spacer or inhaler has a cap, store it with the cap on so that nothing can get stuck in the mouthpiece.
  • Don’t store your inhalers or spacer in a plastic bag or container as this can create static that will affect the way they work.

For more information about asthma, download our asthma support pack today.

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