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How do asthma inhalers work?

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Quick Answer

Asthma inhalers work by delivering medication to the lungs, usually in the form of beta-agonist bronchodilators that provide fast-acting relief of wheezing, tightness of the chest and coughing, according to WebMD. The drugs cause the bronchial muscles in the lungs to relax, which allows more oxygen into the body and opens the airways. Albuterol asthma inhalers are among the most common. Others include terbutaline, pirbuterol and metaproterenol sulfate.

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Full Answer

Metered-dose asthma inhalers and dry powder asthma inhalers are common types of asthma inhalers, and both work by delivering medication to the lungs when the user inhales, according to Mayo Clinic. To use a metered-dose inhaler, the user presses down on a canister to release medicine while simultaneously inhaling deeply. To use a dry powder asthma inhaler, the user breathes in deeply using the inhaler’s mouthpiece.

Some metered-dose asthma inhalers come with asthma spacers, notes Mayo Clinic. This spacer holds the asthma medication in a tube between the mouth and the inhaler, making it easier for children and older adults to inhale the full metered dose. The spacer works to give the user more time to inhale the medicine, so more of it reaches the lungs. Some inhalers have built-in spacers, while others are usable with spacers that attach separately.

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