What Is an Asthma Steroid Inhaler?

S. Berger

Inhalers are a drug delivery system that provides a pre-measured dose of a medication in mist or powder form that can easily reach the throat and lungs. They can be useful in treating conditions like asthma, a disorder that causes irritation and inflammation to the respiratory system. The asthma steroid inhaler in particular is one of the most commonly used varieties of this therapy, as the corticosteroids it contains can usually relieve many symptoms of this condition. Symptoms that can respond to therapy from an asthma steroid inhaler include coughing, difficulty breathing, and tightness in the chest.

An asthma steroid inhaler.
An asthma steroid inhaler.

Certain steroids are produced in the body that have the same effects as those used in an asthma steroid inhaler. These steroids bind special receptors located on immune system cells. They then send messages to these cells to change their activity, so that the immune cells produce anti-inflammatory proteins. Anti-inflammatory proteins help to calm the body's overactive immune system, so that the airways can clear up, and symptoms are relieved.

An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.

An asthma steroid inhaler is intended for long-term relief of asthma. It is generally used daily, when symptoms are not adequately controlled by oral medications. To make sure that the steroids remain effective, doctors usually recommend that these inhalers are not used as a substitute for oral therapies. In the event that the inhaler does not adequately control symptoms, however, individuals can usually obtain a different type of steroid medication, or an inhaler that administers a larger dose.

Other medications can control the same symptoms as these inhalers, but many people with this condition prefer to use an asthma steroid inhaler as their primary therapy for several reasons. They are simple to use, and the medication can be taken on an as-needed basis. Additionally, the nature of inhaled medication means that it has a rapid onset time, giving relief from asthma attacks within minutes of use.

Side effects from these steroids are rare, since the medication remains in the airways and does not reach the bloodstream. Some effects, such as stunted growth in children, can still occur, but not with the frequency that oral steroid treatments have. These effects can be further reduced by using a spacer, which is a long chamber that slows the administration of the medication and allows it to reach the lungs more easily. Taking another asthma medication on a regular basis can also limit the need to use inhalers, further reducing side effects.

An inhaler is used to address breathing issues.
An inhaler is used to address breathing issues.

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