Do you know what inhaler you are on?

I have just been reading a blog post on Asth.ma [a blog by an Asthma Researcher at Harvard] about how a lot of people don’t know the names or doses of their inhalers whereas they often know the names of the other medications that they take e.g. Enbrel, or Methotrexate. And it has really got me thinking about 3 conversations I have had in the past couple of weeks.

A few days after I had moved up to uni I found out that one of my flatmates has asthma, and being naturally inquisitive I asked her if she was on any sort of preventer inhalers, to which she replied that she was on the purple one… I knew she meant Seretide/Advair and I didn’t really think that much of it because so many people know their inhalers by colour rather than by their actual name that I wasn’t that concerned. I wasn’t even that concerned when I found out that she didn’t even know the dose of her inhaler, but I could see just by looking at it that she was on the 125/25 Seretide inhaler. The next week I had 2 similar conversations with two other people from uni, both of which had asthma severe enough to be on an inhaler corticosteroid combined with a LABA [Long acting beta antagonist]. One girl identified her inhaler as being red and white – meaning that she took Symbicort, but she didn’t know if she was on the 100/6, 200/6 or 400/12 dose, and the other said that her preventer inhaler began with an “R”… We later identified her inhaler as the new Relvar Ellipta inhaler using google.

At the time I didn’t think that much of it, but if either one of these 3 people has any sort of emergency or ends up in a situation where they need to identify their inhalers they are going to have a really tough time. 2 of them didn’t even understand why they were moved off of Clenil [AKA the brown inhaler] and onto an inhaler containing both an corticosteroid and LABA… They both said that their doctors/asthma nurses had said they need to take something stronger but hadn’t gone into any detail about what the “something stronger” was. Am I the only one who finds this remotely worrying? Absolutely not, and the point was well highlighted by Dr. Wu.

Personally, in addition to my Ventolin, I almost always carry my asthma medication card in my wallet/purse [anyone can order a card from the Asthma UK website, here] which, gives details on all of my asthma medications. This including the name of my medications, the dosage, how much I take, when I take it and there is also a column for extra information… For example, since I have been prescribed both the 125/5 and 50/5 doses of Flutiform, I have written that I would take the 125/5 if I am yellow zoning, and I have written these zones in too. This means that although I know what medication I take, by name, if I was ever in a situation that meant that I could not talk then health care professionals do not need to mess about trying to find what medications I am on. This also helps when I see my GP or asthma nurse because we are able to discuss medications in full rather than getting confused with all the different colours…

[Note: I do admit to using the colours to identify inhalers in some situations but this is purely to help people understand which inhalers I am talking about, and I would not do this unless I thought necessary to aid understanding]

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3 thoughts on “Do you know what inhaler you are on?

  1. Hi, I was wondering what combination of inhalers worked best for you. I had a really bad asthma attack in February, and ended up in hospital for 7 days. After that the docs put me on Fostair. However when I went back for a check up 8 weeks later, they decided that I still had wheeze, and the inflammation in my lungs was actually worse than when I was in hospital and put me on Relvar. I hate the Relvar inhaler. Everything I eat tastes of earwax, my throat feels like it’s burning, and I am wheezing worse than ever. I’m on the lower dosage of Relvar and due to see the docs again in 4 weeks. If they suggest that I go onto the higher dosage, I am going to resist, because I don’t like the side effects. There has to be an inhaler that is effective at treating brittle asthma that doesn’t make me feel rubbish!

    1. Hi Meredith, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been so ill.
      In regards to what inhaler works best for me… I will let you know when I find it. So far no inhaler has completely resolved my symptoms but I found that inhalers containing formoterol (Symbicort, Flutiform, Fostair) have worked best for me… Probably because they have such a flexible dosing system… However you have to remember that everyone is different and what works for one person may not be the best option for someone else… Having said that, you also have to remember that there are a lot of medications out there so if a few don’t work, don’t loose hope!
      I have heard good things about Relvar but it isn’t for everyone… I haven’t tried it personally because we have found that my lungs do not get on with dry powder inhalers (it actually aggravates my lungs)… Right now I have just been switched back on to Seretide… So that means I have been on Seretide as an accuhaler, Symbicort, Flutiform (in 2 different doses) and now I am back to Seretide again but in MDI (aerosol) form…
      I also don’t have brittle asthma but I know a fair few people who do, and there are other medication options other than inhalers… I reckon you should speak to your doctors to find out all your options. And if you asthma isn’t controlled please, please, please ask for a sooner appointment.
      Let me know how you get on. J x

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