What? You Take Your Inhaler Every Day?!
Last updated: November 2022
When I first heard a doctor wonder about taking an inhaler every day at the Association of Asthma Educator's conference, I had to laugh out loud! Then quickly scribble it down in my notebook. I'm one of those pens and paper kind of gals, I prefer that to laptops or tablets.
The actual quote was, "If a patient tells you they use their inhaler every day, they are probably abnormal and need a psychological workup."
I didn't realize that I am abnormal!
How often should you use your inhaler?
I take my controller inhaler every morning and every night - it's just part of my routine. Even when I travel. Daughter is also very careful about making sure she doesn't miss a day. We take it because we know that it will keep the swelling down in our lungs, which means less asthma attacks for us.
This doctor was speaking about how hard it is for people to remember to take their inhalers. It's generally hard for people to remember to take ANY medicine every day. He said most people only take their medicine half of the time. He also said patients will tell their doctors that they take their medicine every day because they don't want their doctor to get mad at them or be disappointed.
So, instead of asking patients if they take their medicine every day (because everyone will answer yes), he'll say something like, "Most patients take their inhaler 2 or 3 days a week." And his patients will say, "Well I take mine 4 days a week!"
That helps him get a better story of what's going on with someone when their asthma is acting up. He knows they aren't taking it every day, but not sure how much of the medicine they are actually getting.
Each person's asthma is different
The NAEPP EPR 3 guidelines (national guidelines for diagnosing and managing asthma) suggest moving patients up and down a "set of stairs." It's called the stepwise approach. The doctor decides whether to move you up and down the "stairs" depending on your symptoms.1
Your doctor may ask if your asthma wakes you up during the night and - if so - how often. He may also ask how often you are using your rescue inhaler (albuterol), or if your asthma interferes with your daily activities.1 You can see how you are doing by taking the Asthma Control Test™.2
What's the point of testing asthma control?
Well, there's no reason to move you up to the "next stair" - a higher dose inhaler - to help your asthma symptoms if you aren't using the inhaler you already have. Your doctor may think you need more medicine, but your asthma could be worse because you aren't taking your medicine every day.1
I know it's hard to remember to use your inhaler every day. Life is busy with kids, work, school, and traveling. Throw in an unexpected twist like forgetting to set your alarm, staying up late to finish a project, etc. and you may be thrown off your schedule and forget your inhaler.
If you do, be truthful and let your doctor know. He or she won't be mad, they are just trying to figure out the best medicine for you.
If you have a tough time remembering to take your inhaler every day, is there anything that helps you remember?
Has laughter ever triggered your asthma?