Understanding your inhalers
Reviewed by our clinical team
It is important that you understand the difference between a reliever inhaler (e.g. Salbutamol) and a controller (e.g. Beclomethasone, Seretide) so you can use them most effectively and manage your asthma.
Reliever inhalers (Salbutamol)
Relievers contain the drug Salbutamol and are sometimes referred to as ‘blue’ inhalers. Common brands include the Ventolin Evohaler, Salamol Easi-Breath and Salbul. This inhaler works by opening up the air passages in your lungs to allow you to breathe more easily. It quickly helps relieve the symptoms of wheezing and breathlessness caused by your asthma, but only works for a few hours.
How to use your reliever
Your reliever should be used when you experience symptoms of asthma, such as, when you feel you chest is tight, wheezing, coughing and feeling breathless. Although they relieve breathlessness, they do not prevent the breathlessness from happening.
If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than once or twice a week this indicates that your asthma is not well controlled. It suggest you may require a controller inhaler or a stronger dose of your controller, if already using one, or additional medication. We advise you to contact a doctor via your online Patient Record or discuss this with your regular doctor as soon as possible. If you are struggling with your breathing, have an asthma attack or experience severe asthma symptoms please attend your local Emergency Department straight away. Remember asthma can be life threatening.
Possible side effects
Although most patients do not experience side effects , along with it's usefulness salbutamol can cause unwanted side effects which include; a racing heartbeat, light-headedness, headaches, muscle cramps or a slight tremor or shakes. Any side effects should not last more than an hour. If you have heart problems and experience chest pain or any worsening of your heart disease whilst using Ventolin then you should attend your emergency department and seek medical advice right away. For a full list of side effects please take time to read the patient information leaflet that accompanies your inhaler. Please contact us via your Patient Record if you have any concerns about side effects.
Controller inhalers (Beclomethasone/Seretide)
Controllers are steroid inhalers and common brands include Beclazone, Becotide and Seretide. They must be taken regularly to prevent your asthma symptoms from developing. If you do experience asthma symptoms or they flare up you need to take your reliever inhaler as well as your controller.
How to use your controller inhaler
You should take your steroid inhaler regularly at the dose prescribed. In most people this will provide complete asthma control. Your controller works slowly so you won’t feel much benefit immediately, but when used on a daily basis it reduces the inflammation in your airways and stops them from swelling and tightening. You should not use it intermittently as you will not get the same level of benefit.
Possible side effects
Beclomethasone: Most patients do not experience any side effects. However the most common side effect is a hoarse voice, a sore throat or developing thrush in your mouth or throat. To help prevent this, please wash out your mouth and gargle or brush your teeth after taking your preventer inhaler. At unusually high doses if taken on a long term basis there are more serious side effects, such bone thinning; for a full list of side effects please take time to read the product information leaflet that accompanies your medicine. Please contact us via your Patient Record if you have any concerns about side effects.
Seretide: Most patients do not experience side-effects. However you may experience a hoarse voice, a sore throat or develop thrush in your mouth. To help prevent this, please wash out your mouth or brush your teeth after taking your steroid inhaler. A headache, fast heart-beat, palpitations and muscle cramps are uncommon side effects. Rarer side effects can occur and are listed in the patient information leaflet that comes with this medication.
Check your inhaler technique
Everyone should have a regular inhaler technique check as statistics show that more than 50% of asthmatics do not use inhalers correctly, increasing risks of side effects and the medication not working properly.
You can watch the videos from the Asthma Society of Ireland here.
If you are struggling with your breathing, experience severe asthma symptoms or breathlessness, please contact your GP urgently or attend your local Accident and Emergency Department. Remember asthma can be life threatening.