Preventers (Steroids)

Preventer inhalers are steroid inhalers, which reduce the inflammation in the lungs, making it easier to breath and helping to prevent asthmatic reactions. To be most effective, preventer inhalers are usually intended for daily use.

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What are preventer inhalers?

Preventer inhalers are used to manage respiratory conditions like asthma. The medicine is released as a spray or fine powder from the inhaler to soothe inflamed lungs or airways, making it easier to use. These inhalers are used everyday to prevent asthma symptoms from flaring up and potentially leading to an asthma attack.

How do preventer inhalers work?

Preventer inhalers contain a type of steroid called corticosteroids. These are synthetic versions of the chemical produced by the adrenal glands which fight inflammatory responses in the body. The medicine is inhaled directly into the lungs to reduce inflammation and allow the airways to open. They are designed to be used everyday to maintain good respiratory health and prevent symptoms from flaring up.

Who needs to use preventer inhalers?

If you have asthma, you will need to use a preventer inhaler if you make use of your reliever inhaler more than twice a week. A reliever inhaler is usually blue in colour and it's the one you use for instant relief. A preventer inhaler may also be prescribed for people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) who have problems breathing. 

What should you do if you miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, then take it as soon as you remember. If it is close to the time you are due to have your next dose then simply leave the missed one. Do not double up the dose to make up for missing one. 

How to stop using a preventer inhaler

You should continue to use your preventer inhaler even if you feel your asthma has improved. This is a sign that the medicine is working. If you stop taking it then your lungs are likely to become inflamed again and you may need to rely more on your reliever inhaler.  Don't stop using a preventer inhaler unless your doctor says so.


What types of preventer inhaler are available?

There are three types of preventer inhalers: 

  • Metered dose inhaler- these produce a fine mist or spray and can be used with a spacer 
  • Dry powder inhaler- instead of a spray, the medicine is released as a powder. They are usually easier to use for children and teenagers 
  • Breath actuated inhaler- this type of inhaler releases the medicine automatically as you breathe in

Preventer vs combination inhalers

A preventer inhaler contains corticosteroids to reduce lung inflammation. Combination inhalers contain  both corticosteroids and a long-acting reliever medicine to provide relief from a tight chest, breathlessness, coughing and wheezing. Taken twice a day, a combination inhaler is stronger and is usually prescribed if your asthma is not well-managed or it is getting worse. This might mean you are using a preventer inhaler and still having symptoms. 

Are preventer inhalers suitable for asthma?

Preventer inhalers are commonly used to treat asthma. They will be prescribed as an asthma treatment if you need to use your reliever inhaler more than twice a week. 

Are preventer inhalers suitable for COPD?

Preventer inhalers may be prescribed for more severe forms of COPD. The first type of treatment given is usually a short acting bronchodilator which is used as and when needed. A preventer inhaler will be given for COPD sufferers who are breathless most of the time.

Do I need a reliever inhaler too?

Everyone with asthma needs to have a reliever inhaler. These are used to alleviate symptoms as they occur and to treat and manage an asthma attack. Even if you are using a preventer inhaler twice a day you should still ensure you have your reliever inhaler with you at all times in case of an emergency. 

How do I know if my inhaler is a preventer or a reliever inhaler?

Your reliever inhaler will be blue in colour and it will look like a standard Evohaler in shape. It contains the medicine Salbutamol and common brands include: 

  • Ventolin 
  • Salamol
  • Salbulin 
  • Airomir
  • Easi-breathe

Your preventer inhaler will usually be brown in colour. The standard Evohaler shape is most widely available but there are different models which are designed to be easier to use. These inhalers contain corticosteroids, the possible ingredients including: fluticasone, budesonide and beclometasone dipropionate. Common brands include: 

  • Qvar
  • Flixotide
  • Pulmicort
  • Clenil Modulite 

Combination inhalers come in different colours such as purple, pink, red, yellow or grey. If you are ever unsure which inhaler is which then check with a pharmacist.  


Are preventer inhalers safe?

Preventer inhalers are safe to use and are designed for everyday use. Short term symptoms can occur which include a sore or hoarse throat, oral thrush or a headache. These can be avoided by ensuring you are adhering to the correct inhaler technique and rinsing out your mouth after using your inhaler. In the long term, there is a minor risk that long term use can lead to older people developing cataracts or for children to experience reduced growth. 

Are preventer inhalers steroids?

Preventer inhalers contain steroids. These are known as corticosteroids which are a synthetic recreation of the chemicals produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands. This is not the same type of steroids used in bodybuilding; they are what's known as anabolic steroids. 

Will preventer inhalers affect my drug test?

Preventer inhalers contain corticosteroids which are a synthetic version of chemicals produced naturally by the body so they will not affect the results of a drug test. 

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