What is a Rescue Inhaler?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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A rescue inhaler delivers inhaled medication that is used for treating a flareup of asthma symptoms. This type of inhaler medication is short-acting and can work to relieve such symptoms as tightness in the chest, coughing, and wheezing. A rescue inhaler works by delivering medicine that relaxes bronchial tissues and clears the patient’s airways so that he can get more oxygen. Rescue inhalers are usually used as part of a carefully crafted asthma treatment plan that includes medication for not only handling flareups, but also managing asthma on a daily basis.

In many cases, the choice of medications for rescue inhalers is called albuterol. This medication, in a family of medications called beta antagonists, is used for opening a patient’s airways when they become constricted because of asthma. Typically, the effects of a rescue inhaler can be noted only a few minutes after the inhalation of the medication. Often, the effects last for a few hours at a time.


Some people use a rescue inhaler multiple times a day in an effort to deal with asthma symptoms. For example, some people need this type of medical treatment for asthma every four hours or so. In such a case, doctors often prescribe longer-acting medications in the hopes of minimizing inflammation of the patient’s airways and reducing the patient’s need for rescue medications. Doctors often have the goal of prescribing the right regimen of longer-acting asthma medication to ensure that a patient needs to use a rescue inhaler no more often than twice a week.

Doctors usually recommend that a patient have a rescue inhaler on hand for urgent use at all times. If an individual forgets his and has a flareup, however, there are some home remedies he can use to reduce asthma symptoms. For example, some patients may get temporary symptom reduction from consuming coffee or tea. Breathing in moist air from a hot shower may prove helpful as well. It is important to note, that these remedies are not as effective or reliable as rescue inhalers. They may be better than nothing, however, in the event that symptoms develop when a person does not have an inhaler handy.

Sometimes a rescue inhaler is used when a patient is not having an asthma flareup. For example, a doctor may recommend the use of a rescue inhaler before a patient exercises. In such a case, the medication is used for the prevention of flareups rather than to treat episodes that are already in progress.



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