Types Of Inhalers for Asthma and COPD

inhaler types


Respiratory Conditions like Asthma, COPD, and Cystic Fibrosis are chronic conditions that make it difficult for the patient to breathe and affect their lifestyle.

Inhalers are one of the preferred ways of treating the symptoms of Asthma and COPD. These are devices that are used to deliver medication to the lungs of the patients who are suffering from these chronic conditions.

The method of using Inhalation Therapy has been in practice for a long time. Inhalers as devices to treat respiratory illnesses were only introduced during the 19th century. The very first type of Inhaler introduced was a Glass Bulb Nebulizer. These devices were quite large and were only used in the doctors’ offices. The Inhalers available today are quite compact, easy to use, and portable in nature.

Inhalers Based on Device Type

→ Generally, based on the device type, there are four different types of inhalers. Doctors prescribe the one that is most suitable to a patient’s needs.

Pressurized Metered Dose inhalers (PMDIs)

It is also known as the pump inhaler. It is the most commonly used device that delivers a specific amount of medicine to the lungs in the form of an aerosol spray that needs to be inhaled. In order to take this medicine, one needs to inhale and press the canister to release the medication dose. For the best information, one should always consult the doctor for the dose and the medicine that is suitable for the health condition.

PMDIs are sometimes even used with the help of a spacer. A spacer is a tube-like device that is attached to the mouthpiece of the inhaler. Spacers hold the medication till the patient inhales it completely and prevent wastage of the dose of medication, and reduce the need for coordination.

Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs)

Dry powder Inhalers are quite different from regular pressurized metered-dose inhalers. Instead of being in the form of an aerosol, the medication is present as dry powder. This device depends on the power of your inhalation according to which the medicine will be delivered to the body.

PMDIs require a certain amount of coordination while pumping the medicine and inhaling it. But this is not always easy, especially in patients of old age or those suffering from arthritis. DPIs were designed to eliminate this need for coordination and help deliver medicine equally effectively.

Breath Actuated Inhalers (BAIs)

Breath Actuated Inhalers combine the advantages of both, metered-dose and dry powder inhalers. They are activated when a patient breathes in through the mouthpiece as opposed to conventional metered dose inhalers where the pump needs to be pressed to deliver the medication. The device senses the patient’s inhalation through an actuator and delivers a specific amount of dose in the form of a mist automatically.


This is a type of inhaler which converts the liquid into suitable aerosol droplets. It is known to be one of the best suitable options for inhalation, but it is not feasible for daily use. While it requires no coordination and delivers the medicine quickly and effectively to the lungs, a nebulizer usually requires electricity or a battery as a power source to operate which may not always be available. These are generally preferred during asthma attacks for children, critically ill, or old patients. For those who cannot use the others, this works to be an effective one as it does not require a lot of effort and it delivers the medication instantly.

Inhalers Based on Medication Type

→ Based on the type of medication there are 2 types of inhalers – Rescue Inhalers and Controller Inhalers.

Rescue Inhalers

Rescue Inhalers contain a short-acting or quick-acting rescue medication. Medically these medications are known as bronchodilators. These medicines are used in the instance of sudden symptoms like an asthma attack. They work quickly to open the airways of the patient. The action of these medicines occurs within a few minutes and they offer immediate relief from the symptoms to the patient.

Controller Inhalers

Controller Inhalers, also known as Maintainance Inhalers, contain a long-acting medication known as inhaled corticosteroids. These medicines are anti-inflammatory in terms of their action. They reduce inflammation in the airways, thus providing relief to the patient.

Combination Inhalers

As the name suggests, combination inhalers contain both types of medicines- Bronchodilators and Corticosteroids. While the bronchodilator opens the airways, the corticosteroid keeps the inflammation in the lungs down.

Use of Inhalers

Patients must learn the correct way to use an inhaler so as to make sure that the medication reaches the lungs and they get complete relief from the symptoms. They should use the inhaler as advised by the doctor for effective management of their breathing condition.


Choosing an inhaler comes down to the severity of your asthma or COPD. There are different types and each comes with their own set of pros and cons.

To help you get the best results, your doctor will discuss with you options available and they will recommend which one is best for you.

At the end of the day, if you suffer from either asthma or COPD, your inhaler is going to be a godsend, and in fact, it may just save your life.


  1. www.breathefree.com
  2. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315766#different-devices
  3. www.healthnavigator.org.nz/medicines/i/inhaler-devices/
  4. https://consumermedsafety.org/medication-safety-articles/item/406-dont-confuse-rescue-and-maintenance-inhalers
  5. www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/asthma_inhalers_bronchodilators
  6. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/in-depth/asthma-medications/art-20045557
  7. www.asthma.org.uk/advice/inhalers-medicines-treatments/inhalers-and-spacers/combination/

About Theresa Duncan

Originally from Detroit, MI, Theresa has been offering health and fitness advice for the last 30 years while working as an engineer. She decided to turn her passion into a profession, and finds nothing more satisfying than helping others reach their health and fitness goals.

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