Inhalers vs. Nebulizers – Which One is Better for Managing Asthma?
Did you know that most people use their inhaler incorrectly?
I had coffee with a good friend of mine last week, who is also the mom of a wheezy kid. He is a crazy ball of boisterous energy, and like my own boys, only has one speed – go. But, the last few months my friend had noticed that her son was becoming tired more easily and also not feeling enough relief after using his inhaler. This made her suspect that he wasn’t taking his inhaler treatment properly. And so, after explaining her concerns to his PCP, at his next appointment, he was prescribed a nebulizer.
Over the course of two grande lattes, his mom explained to me that, although there was a minor adjustment period of figuring out a new routine, they now much prefer using the nebulizer. In fact, she explained that her son now asks to use his ‘Breath machine.’ In her opinion, he simply finds the nebulizer easier to use – and she does too. To be honest, I wasn’t wholly shocked by this admission. A University of Texas study found that only 16% of patients use their inhaler correctly. I don’t know about you guys, but for a life saving medication, this statistic seems incredibly shocking to me.
The main differences between an inhaler and a nebulizer are that a nebulizer needs little patient co-operation and is designed to place medication directly into the lung. This is vital whether a person is taking a maintenance medication or needs a rescue dose during an attack, because the lungs are the source of inflammation which causes breathing difficulty. Furthermore, the only ‘technique’ required to use a nebulizer, is to breathe as normal.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor! But as a mother and a person who believes that breathing should be the most natural thing in the world, I can understand why my friend’s son would prefer to use his nebulizer over an inhaler.
Nebulizers & Asthma
Even with studies highlighting incorrect inhaler use, wheezy kids are still more commonly prescribed inhalers. Because inhalers require a certain level of inspiratory flow to be effective, this leaves a lot of people who have respiratory illnesses with an ineffective way to administer their medication.
I was interested to find out what the biggest difference was for my friend as a caregiver and a mother, since her son switched to a nebulizer. Because as a parent, that would always be my main concern – Am I treating my child to my best ability? She also echoed this sentiment, and explained that switching to a nebulizer gave her more peace of mind. By actively seeing her son take his treatment, she feels more confident in his care.
This struck a chord with me. If our children need life saving medication, it’s vital, as parents, that we know they are receiving the correct dosage.
The Future Of Asthma Care
The choice of whether to use a nebulizer or an inhaler depends on the patient’s needs. This begs the question – If healthcare professionals know that patients need consistent respiratory care, but that so few people use their inhalers correctly, what are they doing about it? Maybe that is a conversation I can have with one of AireHealth’s medical advisors for a future blog post!
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