Asthma causes inflammation in the airways, making them more sensitive and responsive to asthma triggers. Preventer treatments help alleviate the inflammation to make the airways much less responsive to the effects of these asthma triggers. Unlike relievers, preventers don't provide immediate relief and they should be used daily to ensure that enough medication builds up in your system to be effective.
There are various types of preventative treatments for asthma, all of which contain a variant of a steroid that is able to fight inflammation in the airways. Although they can be taken orally or supplied to the body via injections, they are most commonly prescribed in an inhaled form for everyday use. It's more likely that you'll be prescribed steroid tablets or injections in more severe cases.
What types of preventer inhalers do you get?
Preventer medication can be inhaled in many different forms, so if you find one method difficult or unsuitable to take then there is likely to be another form of inhaled treatment that can be used instead. Below is an outline of the different types of preventer inhalers available and who they are more suitable for:
Puffers may also be called Evohalers, Autohalers, Easi-Breathe inhalers or aerosols, depending on the brand, which could include Clenil, Flixotide, Qvar and Seretide, although Flixotide and Qvar are also available in different forms. Some of these treatments contain a compressed version of the active ingredient that should be inhaled as the aerosol canister is held down, which is the case with the Evohaler and aerosol inhalers.
The Autohaler and Easi-Breathe inhaler don't require you to push anything down as you inhale, but you use it by opening air vents and simply breathing in to activate the release of a spray of mediation.
Puffers are generally easy to use, but very young people or those with arthritis who may find it difficult to operate am aerosol puffer might find it more effective using a dry powder, Easi-Breathe inhaler, Autohaler or Evohaler. If you have a lactose allergy, you may not be able to use some dry powder inhalers available, in which case a puffer is a better option.
Dry powder inhalers
Turbohalers and Accuhalers are both examples of dry powder inhalers. Both these types of inhalers require you to open a mouthpiece and pull a lever or twist the base to allow a dose of dry powder medication to be released; after which you simply need to inhale the dry powder.
Dry powder inhalers are usually easy to operate and give you an accurate indication of how many doses of medication you have left, so that you can ensure that your treatment is continued uninterrupted. Accuhalers are often likely to contain lactose, which might not make them suitable for everybody to take safely, although they are a more convenient option for people who find it difficult to use an aerosol treatment.
Preventers vs. relievers
Some preventer treatments also contain a small amount of reliever medication; as is the case with Seretide and Symbicort. These treatments can be used on their own or together with a reliever inhaler, depending on the dose they are prescribed in. However, they should not be used to provide instant relief if you start experiencing symptoms, which is the case with most preventer medications.
Preventers work to reduce inflammation, whereas relievers are bronchodilators that open and relax the airways immediately to help make breathing easier. They don't work to reduce sensitivity to irritants like preventers do.