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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.

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.

So, I decided on doing this experiment

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.

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. “Symbicort: Fast-Acting Combination For Long-Term Asthma Control,” MD Mag, 2007, May 31,, accessed 10/2/18
  2. Brucker, Mary C., Tekoa L. King, editors, “Pharmacology For Women’s Health,” 2nd edition, 2017, Jones & Bartlett Learning, page 576


  • kris
    1 month ago

    Glad to hear this worked!
    My son is trying to find something to help his EIA. He runs high school XC and track. The albuterol inhaler helps with his shorter races but not the 5k races.
    We are debating whether to try Advair or Symbicort.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    1 month ago

    Hi. Regarding Advair or Symbicort, you pretty much know what I think after reading the article. I personally would start with whichever your insurance covers, or whichever is cheapest. Try it for a while, if it works that’s the one I’d go with. If not, you can talk to your doctor about trying the other one. Both of those medicines have worked wonders for my EIA. Just keep in mind that it often takes 2-3 weeks for the medicine to fully get into your system, so it may take some time for your son to see the full effect. Although, sometimes it may start working sooner. Regarding combivent, I am not aware of studies of combivent for EIA. I think most studies show that medicines like corticosteroids (Qvar, Asmanex), combination inhalers like Symbicort and Advair, and sometimes Singulair work well for EIA. I have also attached a compilation article linking to several articles on EIA that may be worth reading. Hope this helps. And good luck. Do keep us posted on what you, your son, and doctor decide. 🙂 John. Author/ Site Moderator.

  • kris
    1 month ago

    Thank you for the info. I don’t see where you attached the article?

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi kris and thanks for joining in the conversation here. In your debate over Advair versus Symbicort, that does your son’s physician say? Leon (site moderator)

  • kris
    1 month ago

    My sons physican said he could try Advair or Symbicort.
    I’m curious if anyone has tried Combivent with EIB? That was another suggestion.

  • kris
    1 month ago

    My sons physican said he could try Advair or Symbicort.
    I’m curious if anyone has tried Cobivent with EIB? That was another suggestion.

  • sashabear
    5 months ago

    SO how do you pay for these? My inhalers are so expensive that I am using Ephedrine instead. OTC Bronkaid. I have some heart disease, so I am not happy using the Ephedrine, but I don’t seem to have a choice.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    5 months ago

    HI. Sashabear. Great question. I usually do #2 on this list ( There are also other tips you may find helpful. Some of my patients find #4 helpful. Hope this helps. John. Site Moderator.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi sashabear and thanks for your post. If you have insurance, they should be able to pick up a portion of the cost, depending on your coverage. The challenge of course is how to pay for these medications when one does not have insurance. Sometimes, the physician’s office will be able to provide the medication (free samples). You may also want to consider calling the pharmaceutical manufacturer of the medication. Sometimes they have programs in place that assist patients without the financial ability to pay on their own. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

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