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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.

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 in terms of dose collection.

  • An inhaler without a spacer will get about 10% of the medicine dose into the lungs. This means, 90% of the medicine is lost.
  • An “Aerochamber” is a small chambered spacer that is common for younger asthmatics. When using an Aerochamber, about 25%-60% of the dose of medicine gets to the lungs. Meaning, 75%-40% of the medicine is lost.
  • A “Large Volume Spacer” is shaped like a cone and has a slightly larger volume to collect medication. With one of these asthma spacers, one can expect to get 50%-80% of the dose of medicine into the lungs. So, that’s 50%-20% of medicine is lost.
  • 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.

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, up to about 1 year old.
  • Yellow, is designed for children between 1 and 10 years old.
  • Blue, considered to be the adult spacer, it is designed for anyone over the age of 10 years old.

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.

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.

Comments

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    5 days ago

    Nice article, Samuel. Based on the evidence, all of us asthmatics should use spacers with our inhalers on a regular basis (although sometimes when we’re out and about this is not possible). As an RT, I give spacers to all our our patients who require MDIs, and it’s still amazing to me how many have never seen nor heard of one — even longtime asthmatics. And, as you note, sometimes we get into the habit of not using it, and articles like this remind us how beneficial they can be. All the best. John. Site Moderator.

  • HITE1955
    1 week ago

    Hi from HITE1955; from: COPD.net, I also have newly diagnosed ASTHMA.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 week ago

    Hi HITE1955 and welcome to our asthma.net site. We are already acquainted from COPD.net. Some of us who moderate on COPD.net, also moderate here on asthma.net. Warmly, Leon (site moderator)

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