Using Inhalers and Nebulizers to Treat Asthma Attacks

Albuterol: Instant Relief for Asthmatics

The albuterol inhaler has revolutionized asthma treatment. The albuterol inhaler (often referred to as a metered dose inhaler or simply MDI) has revolutionized asthma treatment. The other good news is that in the vast majority of cases, an inhaler is all that’s required of both child and adult asthma sufferers to control their condition.

Albuterol is an inhaled bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles in the respiratory tract and dilates the airways to improve breathing. The albuterol might be mixed with cromolyn to prevent the onset of another attack. Prescribed usage might be one or two sprays every four to six hours, for example, depending on the severity of the condition and the attacks. Some patients with very mild asthma only need to inhale medication now and then, just when they feel they need it.

How to use your inhaler for maximum effect

  1. Shake the canister thoroughly to ensure even dispersal of the drug in the propellant.
  2. Hold the canister upright. This is important! If you don’t do this properly, the internal metering chamber won’t fill the next dose
  3. Hold the inhaler 1-2 inches away from your open mouth.
  4. Activate the inhaler.
  5. Breathe in steadily and slowly.
  6. Continue to inhale fully after the spray of asthma medicine has been delivered.
  7. Hold your breath for a count of 5-10 seconds.
  8. If you need two sprays do not deliver both during the same inhalation.

Albuterol Inhaler vs. Oral Medications


The function of corticosteroids is to reduce inflammation in the bronchi. Corticosteroids are identical to (or simulate the actions of) natural steroid hormones. These synthetic steroids are generally far more powerful than the natural hormones hydrocortisone and corticosterone.

Examples of corticosteroids include methylprednisolone, prednisolone, beclomethasone and triamcinolone.

Compared with taking medicine for the condition by mouth, the albuterol inhaler wins hands down!

The reason? When swallowing tablets or syrup, the drugs must pass through the stomach into the small intestine. This can take up to an hour. The drugs must then be absorbed into the blood vessels and carried (in diluted form) to the lungs. The albuterol inhaler short-circuits this drawn out process. It goes directly to its target: the lungs.

Nebulizers: How They Differ from Inhalers


Cromolyn, an anti-inflammatory asthma medicine, is used routinely to prevent the onset of an asthma attack. Its function is to prevent the airways from swelling up when they come into contact with an asthma trigger. The drug, however, becomes ineffective once the attack is under way. Cromolyn is used in both MDIs and in liquid form in nebulizers. The drug is often used for the specific treatment of exercise induced asthma.

A nebulizer is a device that converts liquid asthma medicine into a cloud of tiny aerosol particles. The device is driven by a compressed air machine. It comprises a cup, a mouthpiece (usually attached to a mask) and thin plastic tubing that connects the mouthpiece to the compressed air machine.

Nebulizers have one big advantage over ordinary inhalers: they can deliver the drugs to the airways and control an asthma attack, even when movement of breath in and out of the lungs is severely reduced.

Used extensively in hospitals, nebulizers are particularly effective for the treatment of three categories of patients:

  • Infants and children under five years old
  • Adults and children who, for whatever reason, are unable to use a normal albuterol inhaler
  • Any age group suffering from a severe attack.


Leave a Comment