Are you getting the most out of your asthma medications?

Adherence to treatment and proper technique when using the devices are key elements for optimal asthma control. 

Treatment adherence

Asthma is a disease that leads to troublesome symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and coughing. Most individuals living with asthma must take medication, often daily, to control the disease and maintain health. Because the manifestations of asthma are not always felt, it is easy to forget to take the medications or to consider that it isn’t that important.

Yet, adequate management of the disease is based on taking the required medication consistently. In order to get the most out of your medication, it must be taken regularly. To understand the importance of taking your medication consistently, it is important to know certain basic principles about the treatment of asthma.

There are two types of medications used in the treatment of asthma. The first category is used to control airway inflammation, which is responsible for most asthma symptoms. If the inflammation is not well-controlled, you will need to use medication from the second category, rescue medication, in order to dilate the airways and quickly ease symptoms.

Because the medications used to control inflammation do not quickly ease symptoms, some people tend to think that they aren’t effective. Their delayed onset of action does not change the fact that these medications are critical in the optimal control of asthma. It is imperative that you closely follow the recommendations of health care professionals (doctor, pharmacist, inhalation therapist, etc.) and that you do not interrupt treatment without their approval.

Managing adverse effects

Speaking to your pharmacist can be useful if taking your medication effectively is compromised due to adverse effects. He/she can help you alleviate or counter adverse effects using various methods:

  • contact your treating physician
    • adjust the dose or the dosage regimen of the medication
    • replace one medication for another (using a different delivery device, for example)
    • stop a medication
    • add a complementary medication
    • etc.
  • simple advice (e.g., rinse your mouth after taking the medication, use a spacer, etc.)
  • educate people on how to use the medications

Symptom awareness

Frequent use of your rescue medication is indicative that your asthma is poorly controlled. Therefore, you should watch for increased use of the medication. If this occurs, it is advisable to speak to a health care professional, to have your treatment reevaluated to ensure that it is still appropriate for you. You are the best-suited person to raise the alarm to indicate that your asthma is not well-controlled. Your health care professionals are counting on you!

Proper technique for use

Most medications used to treat asthma are formulated to be administered directly into the lungs. They are available in a wide range of delivery devices. The main types of devices are:

  • metered dose inhaler
  • dry powder inhalation device (e.g., Turbuhaler®, Diskus)

The choice of a device is based on several factors. It is advisable to speak to your health care professional about the various devices, so you can choose the one best-suited to you. Other medications to treat asthma are available in tablet or injection format. Their administration is often easier.

The benefits reaped from the medication are closely linked to your ability to use the device effectively. In practice, a minority of people make optimal use of their device. Therefore, it is important to receive training on how to use the device. Your pharmacist can show you the proper technique by giving you a demonstration. Take advantage of his/her tips and accessibility to periodically check your technique. Bad habits may set in over time, and your pharmacist is able to detect and correct them.

Difficulties with coordination or manipulation are often observed during use of the metered dose inhaler. Your pharmacist can recommend a device that is easier to use. It is a medical device designed to improve the dispersion of drug particles, so they can properly reach the lungs. Spacers also help to resolve coordination problems. They can be equipped with a mouthpiece or a mask, to facilitate the use of a metered dose inhaler in children.

Regularly cleaning the device and the spacer is crucial. Follow your pharmacist’s advice about how to clean your device.

Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about asthma and its treatments.


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Are you getting the most out of your asthma medications?

Several people use pressurized metered-dose inhalers, to better control their asthma. The benefits obtained from this treatment largely depend on the user’s ability to use the device correctly. In practice, less than half of those who use the pressurized metered-dose inhaler do so optimally.
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