Asthma: Different Inhalers and their Purpose

Inhalers are not a one-size-fits-all tool. There are many variations, each with different purposes, and it is important for those who suffer from asthma to recognise the differences. The device itself, the inhaler, will typically have three forms, Dry Powder Inhalers (DPI), Pressurised Metered Dose Inhaler (PMDI), and Nebulisers. Depending on certain factors, such as the severity of your asthma, you will be prescribed a different device.

Dry Powder Inhaler 

A DPI uses, as the name suggests, medicine in a powder form. Using these devices involves releasing the powder and inhaling quickly to alleviate the symptoms of asthma. In some cases, the powder may cause irritation to the throat and it is recommended to drink or gargle afterwards to clear the passageway.

Pressurised Metered Dose Inhaler 

A PDMI, sometimes known simply as a pressurised inhaler, is a device that stores its medicine in a pressurised canister. As such, it is considered slightly more cumbersome to operate in comparison to a DPI and is not recommended to those with compromised dexterity. However, its construction allows for multiple, shorter breaths, instead of one strong inhalation, reducing the stress involved.


A nebuliser is often prescribed for those who have more demanding asthmatic needs and is typically only suggested in cases of severe difficulty breathing. It is a powerful treatment device that mystifies liquid before transmitting it into the lungs.

In addition to these devices, there are also various treatments that will be suggested. These will typically be a combination of preventer, reliever, long-acting reliever, or non-steroid inhaler. Most commonly you will find a prescription to be both a preventer and a reliever.


A preventer works to keep the passageway clear, staving off any inflammation. The inhaled corticosteroids should be used regularly, even in the absence of symptoms. Their design will be brown.


The reliever works to immediately relax the airways, using short-acting beta agonists to improve breathing ability. These are blue devices.

Long-acting relievers 

These are therapies, often prescribed in severe cases, that will seek to relieve symptoms for up to a day at a time. They are used alongside preventers and relievers.

Non-steroid inhalers 

These are alternative pressurised inhalers for those who may suffer from allergies related to steroids.

In addition to these variations, you will also encounter different brands. The most apparent difference, brand-to-brand, will be the price. However, once you are aware of the various applicator components, you will be more informed to make the right decision. Your GP or pharmacist will also be able to advise you on the most appropriate choice for your preference. It is highly recommended that you consult your GP regularly in the case of asthma to maintain that your inhaler continues to be the most appropriate remedy for you.

When searching online, websites such as will offer detailed information about the various types of inhaler available. By purchasing your prescription medicine online you will also have the luxury of receiving the prescription directly to your door.

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