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Expired Rescue Inhalers: The Unintended Experiment

For months, I have looked at my rescue inhalers...and their expiration dates...and kept using them anyways.

Months might be an understatement.

Years.

In fact, I have repeatedly looked at old inhalers that are so old as to have the old style labels from my pharmacy on them (Canadians who use Shoppers Drug Mart, you know what I'm talking about) and considered, "Hmm when did they update those labels again? Maybe I should not use that one..."

How long after an expiration date can you use an inhaler?

This is a question best left to your pharmacist or other healthcare provider. But, general guidance states it's probably okay to use them if they're within 12 months of their expiry date.

I will tell you, though, I have just done a round-up of my inhalers floating around - yes, including that one with the old style label! -and I have been using inhalers with expiration dates across the spectrum: the one with the old label (which I think I've probably not used in... uh, awhile? I hope?) has an 02/2021 expiration; amazingly I only have one with a 2022 expiration (...I mean, it is nearing the end of 2023 as I write this); 2 expired 01/2023 (still within my 12 months!) and, by some miracle, one is 02/2024 and the other is 02/2025.

Now...I cannot say the fact that I even possess in-date inhalers is intentional. It was not. My doctor, however, has faxed refills in, and they have just filled them rather than filed them, which means, hello fresh Ventolin!

Community Poll

Have you ever used your rescue inhaler after the expiration date?

Do expired asthma inhalers work as well?

I do not feel I have personally noticed a discernible difference in the efficacy of my inhalers myself after they are past the printed expiration date. Well, except maybe when they are, uh, a couple years old?

My everyday carry inhaler currently has a 10/2024 expiration, but I did notice while in a little flare the other day I was not bouncing back as well from Ventolin I was using from my basket at home, leading me to unbox a fresh inhaler, and yes, I have felt much better since swapping them out. I don't know for sure the expiry on the one I felt was not working as well, so I cannot say it wasn't 10/2022, putting it near its year past expiry. I also cannot say it was not a more recently expired one either.

I am sure my family doctor, Dr. Awesomesauce, will love this report when I see him - that I am just accidentally citizen - scienceing myself with old inhalers. Actually, he probably will. And then he will tell me when he last sent me 7 refills and I should just stop using the expired ones.

Which, yes, he's probably right, but then we wouldn't be here, now would we?

New inhaler

Fortunately, the most recent rescue inhaler I unboxed is good til 2025...and it was October 26, 2023 when I unboxed it. Wow, what a concept, an inhaler with well over a year until its expiration date... not, uh, 3 years past!

Do you notice a difference in efficacy when your asthma inhaler is expired or nearing it's expiration date?

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Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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