Some Information on Asthma Spacers
As asthmatics, we know that we experience asthma in our own unique way. We each have different triggers, symptoms and even medications. There are also differences between medications but one of the most common ways we receive our medicine is by inhaling it. Then, with inhaled medications, there are many different types of inhalers. What else can be different? Lots. Including the way we use that rescue inhaler.
That’s a lot of differences for us, but one thing we all have in common; is that we need to breathe better. Something that can help us do that, is using an asthma spacer with our rescue inhalers. Surprise, surprise! There are lots of different spacers to choose from too! So, in a world with too many variables, this is meant to sort our the spacers and find which is best for you.
What is an asthma spacer?
Many of the inhalers we use are MDI's or "metered dose inhalers"; commonly our rescue inhalers. A spacer is an apparatus that is attached to the mouthpiece of your rescue inhaler in order to slow down and collect the dose of medication. This allows the user to take multiple breaths of the same dose of medicine, without needing to time an inhale or force a deep breath. Spacers are used with the idea that you will get more of the administered dose.1
The different types of asthma spacers
Of course, there are many types of spacers. So here is a quick list of common inhalers and how they compare to each other.
- An inhaler without a spacer may get less than 15% of the medicine dose into the lungs.2 This means perhaps more than 85% of the medicine is lost. If used properly, a spacer can make an inhaler 20% more effective.3
- An "Aerochamber" is a small chambered spacer that is common for younger asthmatics (usually age 5 and under). Because this spacer is small, the particles of medicine are dispersed quickly, which some may describe as a "burst."4,5
- A "Large Volume Spacer" is shaped like a cone and has a slightly larger volume to collect medication. In this type of spacer, the medicine can exist statically before inhalation, allowing it to be breathed in evenly over multiple breaths.4,5
- There are also spin-off brands of spacers. Some can be more expensive for a product that has more valves and are over-complicated. These inhalers are usually not prescribed and are purchased on-line.4
Different colors of the Aerochamber spacers
The color of an Aerochamber spacer corresponds to the age of the user. This is to create a volume of the chamber that is proportional to the volume of the persons lungs.
- Orange, is designed for infants between 0 and 18 months old.
- Yellow, is designed for children between 1 and 5 years old.
- Green, a newer design, is for children ages 5 and older.
- Purple and blue are "small" adult and "large" adult masks, respectively. They are considered to be the adult spacers and are designed for anyone over the age of 10 years old.6
My asthma spacer use
The last spacer that I used for my rescue inhaler was a blue Aerochamber, prescribed by my pediatrician. Before that, I was able to try out the full line of Aerochamber colors. There is some debate about about how effective asthma spacers are. When I used one daily, I felt the difference of being able to take multiple breaths of the medication dose, especially when my breath was shallow.
Luckily, my asthma has gotten much better over the course of my early adulthood and I am very thankful for this. Today, I do not use a spacer, however I frequently feel as though I should on the occasion when I do use my rescue and have a shallow breath. When I was using my inhaler daily, I always had it paired with my spacer because I would keep track of both constantly. Now, because I don't use my rescue daily, I leave my spacer at home most of the time. That being said, writing this article has actually made me want to keep my spacer near again!
I hope this article helped you to understand some of the differences between asthma spacers and why using one might be helpful during a flare. As always, you and your doctor know your asthma best. So, you should speak with them before changing anything up or buying a spacer that isn't the best fit for you. Let us know what you use and how it has worked for you.
Do you prefer to use a spacer or no spacer?