My Experiment: Advair vs. Symbicort

So, for the first half of my life, I was unable to run. But, thanks to Advair, now I can run. But, I found that when I sprinted I still felt chest tightness. So, this inspired an experiment that put Advair up against Symbicort. Here’s how this battle came down.

I was a huge Advair fan

It has done wonders for me. This is the medicine that FINALLY helped me obtain good asthma control. So, because of this neat fact, it was hard for my doctor to convince me to switch to Symbicort.

Despite his urging, I would not budge.

Understanding these 2 asthma treatments

But, I kept my mind and my ears open. I did my research. I already knew they contained similar medicines. Here is the breakdown.

Advair

Contains two medicines:

  • Inhaled Corticosteroid: fluticasone
  • Long-Acting Beta 2 Adrenergic: salmeterol

Symbicort

Contains two medicines:

  • Inhaled Corticosteroid: budesonide
  • Long-Acting Beta 2 Adrenergic: formoterol

Other facts about these two medicines.

  • Salmeterol is a slow acting medicine. It takes several minutes to open your airways.
  • Formoterol is a fast-acting medicine. It works within seconds, about as fast as albuterol. So, it can open your airways fast. (1-2)
  • Where I live, Advair is only available as a dry powdered inhaler. It is only available with the Advair Discus.
  • Where I live, Symbicort is only available as an HFA metered dose inhaler.
  • An interesting tidbit: I have learned that HFA propellants seem to get deeper into airways than DPIs. Hearing this fact that triggered my experiment. You can read more about this in my post, “Five Inhaler Tidbits.”

So, that sets the stage for my experiment

Thanks to modern medicines, I am now able to exercise like a normal person. Well, at least within certain asthma-related limits. As I explained in an earlier post, I like to do interval training. So, I run for 20 minutes. Of that 20 minutes, I run as fast as I can for four of these minutes. It’s intervals, so there’s three minutes of building up to that sprint, followed by a minute of walking.

Last December I was even up to a sprint during these four minutes. In fact, during the last 2 minutes of my run I was able to sprint.

The problem was that this resulted in some minor asthma issues. It triggered my exercise-induced asthma. Granted, the symptoms were minor. There was minor shortness of breath. The worse symptom was chest tightness. I would consider these type 3 asthma attacks.

I talked to my doctor. My thinking here is that maybe Advair doesn’t get deep enough into my lungs. My hope was that, because it’s an HFA inhaler, Symbicort would get deeper down my airways and this would lead to a little better asthma control.

But, the experiment petered out. Christmas came and went. The diet petered out. I gained 20 pounds. So, now we have to fast forward six months. I decided to get back on the wagon. And, after a month, I was back to where I left off. Finally, I was able to sprint again. I was able to get on with this so-called experiment.

Advair vs Symbicort: Which was better for me?

Lo and behold, I think it actually worked. I just sprinted on the treadmill today with no issues whatsoever. Now, is this just a coincidence? Or, does Symbicort actually work better for me? The answer to that will have to come in a future post.

Update: It's been a month since I wrote the above. I have been doing my interval aerobic workouts 3-4 times every week. And, I'd have to say, I have had zero trouble. The only time I had even a hint of chest tightness was the one day I ran outside when it was 45 degrees out. So, that's pretty good, I think. When it's cold I just workout in the gym, no problem with that.

Did you ever talk to your doctor about experimenting with similar medicines? If so, how did it work out for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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