a woman asking a doctor about changing her inhaler

Is It Okay to Ask My Doctor for a Different Inhaler?

Last updated: June 2022

I was teaching an asthma education session to a client the other day, and they asked if was okay to ask their doctor for a different inhaler.

The question took me by surprise! But I assured them that yes, they should help decide how they wanted to treat their asthma.

I always encourage clients to give feedback to their doctors. Otherwise, there is no way for the doctor to know how the patient is doing. If they do not hear from you, they are going to assume you are okay. If you do not like a certain inhaler, let the doctor know! You are in this together!

An example of asking for a different inhaler

I had the same experience when a colleague was first hired on. I was explaining my job and how I provide asthma education to families. She said that her daughter has asthma, and was prescribed a dry powder inhaler – but the daughter HATED it. She hated it so much that she would not use it. I asked her which inhaler her daughter was using. My colleague couldn’t remember the name, so I pulled out my respiratory treatment poster to have her point to the photo of the inhaler.

As luck would have it, she pointed to a dry powder inhaler that also had a metered-dose inhaler version. My colleague was surprised to learn that the same inhaler her daughter hated was available in another version. She wondered if her daughter would be willing to try the other version. She later reported that the doctor was also surprised to find out that there was a different version of the same inhaler and was happy to change her daughter's prescription.

The daughter liked the new version a LOT better. In fact, because the daughter liked it better, she would USE it! And that helped her control her asthma.

Hats off to that pediatrician, who was willing to listen and explore. It must be nearly impossible for them to keep up on medications and treatments for epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, and many other medical conditions. Not to mention treating kids who have strep throat, need stitches, broke an arm, etc. I don’t know how pediatricians do it all!

"Shared decision making"

Back to my client. She was not sure if it was “okay” to ask her doctor for a different inhaler. I told her it is okay for her to have a say in what medicine she uses.

It was the perfect opportunity for me to explain "Shared Decision Making." The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology collaborated with the Allergy and Asthma Network to create a simple way for health care providers and patients to work together. The document is called “Essential Steps to Shared Decision Making." It’s pretty basic and has an easy acronym: SHARE.1,2

"S –Seek your patient’s participation."(providers should tell patients that they have a few choices and can help decide.)

"H – Help your patient explore and compare treatment options"(pretty easy to do - just discuss the pros and cons of each option.)

"A –Assess your patient’s values and preferences"(what matters most to them? Cost? A certain level of functionality?)

"R - Reach a decision with your patient"(let the patient have the final say.)

"E – Evaluate your patient’s decision"(support them by monitoring the treatment and helping them with barriers.)

Have you had a say in your asthma treatment plan?

How many of you have had a good chat with your doctor? Did you provide feedback about what you want or don't want for treatment? Did you feel like you had a say in your treatment plan?

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