Asthma puffers, or “medication delivers systems” have been designed to deliver medication directly in to the lungs. This results both in quicker and more efficient action, and less medication entering the bloodstream. Prior to the development of inhalers, the medications used to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions were taken by mouth in pill or liquid form. Medication taken by mouth is swallowed into the stomach and ultimately enters the bloodstream to then travels to the target area, the bronchi (airway tubes). This indirect route is less effective than the inhaled route. Also, because oral asthmatic medications enter the bloodstream there is of course, the potential for more side effects. Asthma inhalers allow medication to go directly into the airways, thus maximizing effectiveness yet with potentially fewer side effects.
Various types of medications can be found in MDI puffers; Bronchodilator medications that open up the airway or corticosteroid medications that prevent asthma attacks. Some puffers contain combinations of 2 medications.
Different Types of Inhalers
There are two main categories of puffers:
- Aerosol or spray forms called Metered Dose Inhalers (MDI’s). MDI’s eject medication in an aerosol form into the lungs. The medication is mixed with a gas to make it spray easily. This gas used to be CFC(chlorofluorocarbon), but for environmental reasons, most MDI’s today are “CFC-free”. Children must be at least 8 – 9 years old to able to use these devices properly as they require quite a bit of coordination: With the end of puffer in the mouth, the child has to breathe in, while pressing down on the inhaler to release the spray. In order to allow the administration of puffers to younger children, devices called spacers have been developed. Basically, spacers are tubes into which the MDI puffer fits into on one end. The other end of the spacer is either a mouthpiece (for children over than 5 years of age) or a mask for younger children and infants.
- The other category of asthma medication delivery systems are the dry powder systems. These devices, used by children over 5 years of age, contain medication in powder form. The devices are placed into the mouth and the child breaths in the medication by sucking in, just like sucking on a straw. As with the MDI puffers, the medications in the devices are either a bronchodilator, cortisone or both.
In certain situations, children are prescribed cortisone-containing devices on a daily, preventative basis, and the bronchodilator puffers to be used as needed, and not regularly. This may sound confusing, but when parents understand how to properly use the prescribed puffers, their child’s asthma can usually be controlled very well. Which inhaler and which type of medication prescribed, depends on the age and individual situation of the child.
The main point is that inhalers or puffers have played a big role in our ability to improve asthma control in children. Used properly and appropriately, asthma delivery devices are safe and extremely effective!
Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.