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Image / Editorial

How often do you use your blue inhaler? Over-use can lead to asthma exacerbation or death


by Grace McGettigan
19th Feb 2020
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New research has found Irish asthma sufferers are becoming over-reliant on their blue inhaler – which could have fatal consequences 


Almost half a million people in Ireland are living with asthma, but new research conducted by hmR Ireland on behalf of the Asthma Society has found we’re becoming over-reliant on our blue inhalers.

The blue inhaler – also known as the reliever inhaler – works within minutes to temporarily relieve asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and wheezing. However, they do not offer the same long-term solution as a preventer or controller inhaler (often brown or orange in colour).

Marcus Butler, who is the medical director of the Asthma Society, said, “A reliever inhaler effectively just buys time, but can eventually fail to keep a patient safe if more effective controller inhalers are not used on a daily basis.

“A controller inhaler works over a much longer duration to eventually ease the underlying airway inflammation which ultimately causes asthma symptoms. It prevents symptoms from arising several weeks and months down the road, as long as it is habitually taken.”

Over-using a reliever can be fatal

However, this new research has found seven in 10 people with asthma in Ireland are using more than three reliever inhalers a year, putting them at risk of an asthma attack (or some form of asthma exacerbation).

More worryingly, three in 10 use more than 12 reliever inhalers a year, putting them at risk of an asthma-related death.

Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “If you are using your reliever inhaler several times each week, you are over-reliant on it and your asthma is not controlled.”

“The exception to this is people with asthma who participate in sport/exercise,” she adds, “where it is still recommended you use your reliever inhaler prior to warming up before exercising.”

If you are concerned about overusing your blue inhaler/reliever inhaler, contact your GP or call the Asthma Society’s free adviceline on 1800 44 54 64 for advice. 

Photo: @manarvee via Instagram


Read more: ‘All of a sudden I was really struggling’: 1 person in Ireland dies from asthma every 6 days

Read more: Parents call for ‘living walls’ to be installed in London schools

Read more: #NoSmokingDay: 16 people die every day from smoking in Ireland