My Take On The Long-Term Side-Effects Of Inhalers

I have a theory about the long-term effects of taking inhalers. I’m not going to use science here. I’m simply going to use my own history as proof.

Let’s flashback to the past. 

So, I’m fifteen-years-old. It’s 1985. I’m what doctors call a “high-risk” asthmatic. I’m puffing on inhalers an awful lot!  For instance, I’m a first generation albuterol puffer. I’m also a first-generation inhaled corticosteroid puffer.

Worse, I use albuterol a lot more than what the package insert recommends. I often go through more than one albuterol inhaler in a month. My dose of ICS is high too. The one I’m prescribed is Azmacort. My prescription is for 4 puffs 4 times a day. Like, that’s a lot of puffs. In fact, I puff so much I’m an inaugural member of the Ventolin Club.

I’m a worrier. Maybe it’s because I’m a natural thinker. Maybe it’s because I’m a nervous kid. Maybe I’m nervous because of all the medicine I take. For instance, albuterol is similar to adrenaline. It can cause a person to become jittery and nervous.

So, I often think things like:

“What are the long-term effects of all this puffing?”

Sure, they do studies on this new medicine. They learn that it’s safe. They learn that it works for asthma. But, do they take into consideration what years of inhaling inhaled medicine does to a person? I mean, will it somehow damage airway cells in a way that might cause something worse than asthma. I mean, something like cancer? I mean, how do they know it doesn’t do this?

So, I’m sitting on the doctor’s bed. I nervously shift as the door opens and Dr. O. enters my room. My shoulders are high. I’m somewhat frogged up on the edge of the bed. I’m having an asthma attack. It’s a mild one, but an asthma attack indeed.

And here I am worrying about my future.

I pose my question to Dr. O. “Um, are their long-term consequences to all this inhaler puffing?”

He smiles. He sits down on his black, leather doctor’s chair. He leans back until his back hits the wall. He puckers his lips, as though searching for the perfect way of articulating an answer. He says, “You know, you have high-risk asthma. If you don’t take these medicines every day, you won’t have a future.”

There is a moment of silence. Then he continues, “But, these medicines are run through the ringer. They are studied. They have tested up the ying yang. Side effects are considered negligible.”

There was another pause, then he added: “And they keep you alive now. So, I wouldn’t worry about the future.”

It was a good answer, I think. But, still, I’m not satisfied. Sure, side effects are negligible. That’s what their studies show. But, they can’t go into the future. They can’t see me in the future. They can’t see inside my body in 2018. How will years of inhaling this stuff affect me? Will it cause cancer long-term? Will the 2018 version of me have albuterol induced name disease?

Now jump into the future.

So, here I am typing on this Dell Chrome book. I hate this thing, by the way. I love Chrome books, but I hate the Dell version. I’m ready to get a Samsung, Acer, or Asus. But, my favorite is the Acer. As I’m pondering this, a sharp tinge hits me. It’s as though a younger version of me is looking through my eyes.

Ah, so what about those long-term side effects? How did all that puffing affect me?

Well, I’m still here. I’m breathing fine. In fact, I’m still puffing. But, thankfully, the inhalers today are a heck of a lot stronger. They only need to be taken twice a day. And they prevent asthma symptoms. In fact, they are so good that sometimes I don’t even feel like I have asthma anymore.

But, I’m still alive. I do not have inhaler induced cancer. I do not have any sort of long-term effect of all that puffing. I’m fine.

And, now that I think of it. inhalers have been around since 1956. One would think, if there were long-term consequences of puffing, they would be well known by now. And, let it be known, that there are no long-term consequences of puffing. I think, if anything, I am living proof of that.


View Comments (2)
  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    3 months ago

    Bingo! You have to have some faith in the system. When you have a chronic disease and need new medicine, you often have no choice. But, as far as asthma medicines are concerned, we’ve been pretty fortunate with side effects. That’s pretty awesome I think. And life is so much better when they help you obtain better asthma control. Always enjoy your comments. Thanks. John. Site Moderator.

  • Shellzoo
    3 months ago

    When I started Advair earlier this year my first thought was about the long term effects of taking a steroid inhaler. Would it thin the lining of my airway? Would it give me thrush? Glaucoma? Then I felt better. I slept better. I had more energy. My chest no longer felt tight. I think now, I see a better future with my inhaler than without. Just not feeling winded all the time is great. I think I will put some faith in the research and trials and be glad that there is a medication to help me breath. I think your article reflects what many of us think when starting new treatments or medications.

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