Inhalers have been a standard medical therapy for asthma symptoms for decades. “Puffers,” as they are commonly known, shoot medicine down into the lungs. These bronchodilators (medicines which relax the main airways, making it easier to breathe) and corticosteroids (medicines which reduce inflammation in the airways) are effective for some—but come at a high cost.
The Canadian Lung Association lists nervousness, trembling and increased heart rate as possible side effects of taking a bronchodilator. As for corticosteroids, you may get a yeast infection or suffer from a sore throat.
It’s these sorts of prescription side effects that make asthma sufferers wary of using puffers. No doubt many would prefer to take these meds sparingly, given a choice.
Now—the question is: are inhalers still effective when they are only taken intermittently? Researchers at the Clinical Research Unit on Childhood Asthma in Quebec, say they are.
They conducted a review to compare the effectiveness and safety of using a puffer daily versus intermittently in both kids and adults.
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Six trials met the research team’s strict inclusion criteria. In all, 1,211 patients suffering from what the researchers called “persistent asthma” were analyzed. This is exactly the type of asthma situation which would drive someone to use an inhaler daily.
They wanted to know if you need to take an inhaler every day if your asthma symptoms are persistent. According to the researchers, those who took their puffers daily had a marginal improvement in symptoms compared to those who only took meds intermittently. However, there were no significant differences between the two groups in the following areas:
• Quality of life
• Airway hyper-reactivity
• Visits to emergency rooms
In trials involving children, intermittent inhaler use was associated with better growth compared to those who took daily treatments.
Who wouldn’t want to avoid the potential side-effects of using an inhaler daily? This study shows now you can. For severe asthma, you will probably need to use your inhaler every day. But if it’s not severe, then using it intermittently is a good option (but keep it on you, just in case).
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Chauhan, B.F., et al., “Intermittent versus daily inhaled corticosteroids for persistent asthma in children and adults,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. February 28, 2013; 2.