What is an asthma preventer inhaler?

What steroid inhalers are and how they work


Asthma is a common respiratory condition that affects the lungs and airways, making it harder to breathe. It often occurs in childhood but it can happen for the first time in adults. There are many possible causes and triggers which lead to breathlessness, chest tightness, coughing and wheezing. Uncontrolled asthma leaves you at risk of an asthma attack which can be fatal. 

Asthma inhalers

If you have asthma then your treatment will be given in the form of an inhaler. This is a plastic, handheld device that releases medicine directly into your lungs while you breathe. There are two main types of inhalers: preventer inhalers and reliever inhalers. 

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Reliever inhalers 

A reliever inhaler is given to every person who has asthma. It is usually blue in colour and might also be described as a rescue inhaler. This gives instant relief and is the inhaler you should use if you are having an asthma attack. You should only use it when you have asthma symptoms. 

Preventer inhalers 

Preventer inhalers are prescribed if you have needed to use your reliever inhaler more than twice a week in order to keep your asthma under control. Preventer inhalers (such as Flixotide, Clenil Modulite, or Qvar)contain a corticosteroid and are used twice a day; once in the morning and once at night, to prevent your symptoms from flaring up. They cannot be used to treat an asthma attack. 

How long will I need a preventer inhaler for? 

If you have been prescribed a preventer inhaler then you will need to keep using it every day unless your doctor tells you to stop. You might be tempted to stop using it if your symptoms disappear but this leaves you at risk of them returning. 

When you stop using your preventer inhaler, your airways start to tighten again and your lungs are likely to become inflamed. This means your symptoms will be likely to flare up and you might be at greater risk of an asthma attack. 

Can I use my reliever inhaler alongside my preventer inhaler? 

You should always use your reliever inhaler when you need it. If your symptoms flare-up, or if you have an asthma attack, then take a puff of your blue inhaler for instant relief. A preventer inhaler works slower to calm your airways and lungs, allowing you to breathe easily.

If you are using your preventer inhaler correctly twice a day and you find that you are still needing to use your reliever inhaler, see your GP. They may prescribe you with a combination inhaler that combines two different medicines together to manage your condition. 

Are there different types of preventer inhalers? 

There are several different types of preventer inhalers available. You may find some of them easier to use than others, particularly for children and teenagers. 

  • Metered-dose inhalers: these are the standard types of inhalers which release the medicine as a spray. You need to push down on the canister at the same time you breathe in 
  • Dry powdered inhalers: a dry powder inhaler contains set doses of the medicine which is released as a dry powder
  • Breath actuated inhalers: these may be good if you struggle to use a standard inhaler as the medicine is released automatically when you breathe in 

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Asthma UK > Preventer Inhalers
NHS > Asthma Treatment

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