Asthma is a common condition affecting millions of people that causes breathing problems. Asthma treatments work to quickly treat the symptoms of asthma, prevent asthma attacks, and help stop an asthma attack if you’re having one.
- Complete a short medical questionnaire
- Highlight a preferred treatment
- Doctor reviews your answers and notes your preferred treatment
Important: If your preferred treatment is not clinically suitable, your doctor will offer an alternative or advise you on what to do next.
Asthma treatments available
- Ventolin® Evohaler
- Salbutamol Inhaler
- Symbicort Turbohaler
- Seretide Accuhaler
- Pulmicort Turbohaler
- Clenil Modulite
- Symbicort Turbohaler
- Seretide Accuhaler
- Seretide Evohaler
- Pulmicort Turbohaler
- Clenil Modulite
- Qvar Easi-Breathe
- Qvar Autohaler
- Qvar Aerosol
What asthma inhalers are available?
What types of asthma inhalers are there?
The 3 main types of inhaler used to treat asthma include:
- reliever inhalers
- preventer inhalers
- combination inhalers
Your doctor will prescribe the inhaler that will work best to treat your asthma. Inhalers come in different colours depending on the type.
- Ventolin Evohaler (blue)
- Salbutamol Inhaler (blue)
- Pulmicort Turbohaler (brown/white)
- Clenil Modulite (brown)
- Qvar Easi-Breathe (brown)
- Qvar Autohaler (red/white)
- Qvar MDI (red)
- Symbicort Turbohaler (Red/White)
- Seretide Accuhaler (purple)
- Fostair (pink)
- Seretide Evohaler (purple)
What are reliever inhalers?
Reliever inhalers provide fast relief from the symptoms of asthma. A reliever inhaler works by relaxing the muscles in your airways which makes it easier for you to breathe. It works rapidly and can be used at any time when you notice symptoms of an asthma attack. So, it is important to keep your reliever inhaler with you all of the time.
What are preventer inhalers?
Preventer inhalers are taken regularly to prevent asthma attacks happening. Preventer inhalers are used to reduce inflammation in your airways and contain steroids. The active ingredients in preventer inhalers are steroids called ‘corticosteroids’. Unlike reliever inhalers, preventer inhalers are not used to treat asthma attacks when they occur. Your doctor will explain how to use your preventer inhaler and how many times a day to use it. You must take it regularly, even if you do not have symptoms, to prevent asthma attacks.
What are combination inhalers?
Combination inhalers act in 2 different ways to manage your asthma. They work to keep inflammation in your airways down and also to reduce symptoms all of the time. Combination inhalers are taken every day whether you are having symptoms or not. Your doctor will advise you how and when to take your combination inhaler.
Which inhaler is right for me?
Our registered doctors will assess your online form to check that you have chosen the right inhaler. Most people will be prescribed a reliever inhaler to use when symptoms happen. If you need to use your reliever inhaler three or more times a week you may be prescribed an additional inhaler to help prevent symptoms from occurring. It is important to understand how and when to use your inhalers and to follow these instructions.
Why are asthma inhalers different colours?
Asthma inhalers are different colours to make it easy to tell the different sorts of inhaler apart. This can be important for people with asthma and their families. If you have an asthma attack you will need to use a reliever inhaler quickly. These are usually blue in colour and will provide fast relief from symptoms allowing you to breathe easily again. Being able to tell the different inhalers apart quickly can be very important if you have an asthma attack.
How do I use an inhaler?
Each type of inhaler is used differently and it is important to use your inhalers in the right way. Taking the correct inhaler at the correct time will make sure that your asthma medication is effective. This helps to reduce attacks and to treat them quickly when they do happen. Using your inhaler correctly also reduces the chances of side effects and will help to keep you on the lowest dose possible.
How to use a preventer inhaler
Most people will be prescribed a preventer inhaler to take once or twice a day. Normally you will take one dose of your preventer inhaler in the morning and one in the evening. These regular doses will help to build up protection against asthma in your airways. This should reduce the need for extra medication. Your doctor will advise you of the right dose for you when they prescribe a preventer inhaler.
How to use a reliever inhaler
A reliever inhaler is used to treat symptoms of an asthma attack when they occur. The medication in a reliever inhaler normally lasts for between 4 and 6 hours. You can use a reliever inhaler up to 4 times a day. If you need to use it more often than that, you must contact your doctor for advice straight away.
If you are having an asthma attack, you should take your inhaler as directed by your doctor. However, it should only be used during an asthma attack as it will only treat symptoms as they occur and not the underlying cause of inflammation, so it will not prevent asthma symptoms in the long term. Overusing a reliever inhaler can actually make asthma worse. In addition, if you are needing to use your reliever more than recommended, it is a sign that your asthma is not well controlled, and that you are at risk of a serious attack.
How should I maintain my inhaler?
Keeping your inhaler clean, dust free and at the right temperature is very important. This helps to ensure your inhaler is effective and to stop accidental infections from happening. It is simple to keep your inhaler clean and ready for use.
- Always keep the mouthpiece cover on the inhaler when you are not using it.
- Regularly clean the plastic casing of your inhaler. Remove the metal canister and rinse all parts of the plastic carefully under warm water. Dry the casing thoroughly and replace the canister and mouthpiece cover.
- Always test the inhaler after cleaning by releasing a single dose into the air.
The patient information leaflet that comes with your inhaler will tell you how to store your inhaler correctly. Always follow the instructions in this leaflet. It is important to keep your inhaler in a cool and dry location. Avoid sunny places and wet or damp locations like the bathroom or kitchen.
Extreme temperatures can affect the medication in your inhaler and it is very important to follow the directions in the patient information leaflet relating to temperature range.
How should I dispose of my asthma inhaler?
All used inhalers should be returned to a pharmacy. They cannot be recycled in your domestic recycling or thrown into your household waste. Return empty or out of date inhalers to your nearest local pharmacy.
How do I buy asthma inhalers?
Can I buy asthma inhalers online?
Yes. You can buy asthma inhalers online through regulated suppliers like Superdrug Online Doctor. To make an order follow these simple steps:
- Fill in our simple and confidential form to begin your order.
- One of our registered UK doctors will review your answers and if it is safe for you to take asthma inhalers we will prescribe your medication and package it up for you.
- Orders are dispatched direct to your address or you can collect them from your local Superdrug store.
Asthma treatments are only available on prescription in the UK and you will need a diagnosis from your GP to purchase asthma inhalers online. You must continue to have regular asthma reviews with your GP or asthma nurse.
You can buy both reliever inhalers and preventer inhalers online with Superdrug Online Doctor.
Repeat prescriptions for inhalers can be ordered online.
Can I buy asthma inhalers over the counter?
You cannot buy inhalers over the counter as you will need a prescription.
Can I get asthma inhalers on the NHS?
Your GP will need to prescribe inhalers for the treatment of asthma as part of an asthma management plan, you will then be able to get inhalers as part of a regular prescription.
Asthma inhaler side effects
Inhalers are considered a safe and effective treatment for most people who are living with asthma. Like all medicines they can have some side effects, but these are generally mild. If you have had an allergic reaction to steroids in the past, had tuberculosis (TB) or another lung infection in the past, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should speak to your doctor before taking steroid-based medication. It is likely that inhalers will be safe for you to use but it is worth checking with your doctor before taking them.
Reliever inhaler side effects
Reliever inhalers have very few side effects. They may cause shaking or a fast heart beat for a few minutes after using them. These side effects may be worse if you overuse your reliever inhaler. The sensation should pass very quickly. If you are concerned that the side effects happen often or are lasting longer than a few minutes it is important to speak to your doctor.
Preventer inhaler side effects
Preventer inhalers have a number of common side effects. These include a sore throat, hoarse voice and a mouth infection known as thrush.
Inhalers used to treat asthma contain steroids and higher doses of steroids can cause some further side effects. Your doctor will try to keep you on the lowest dose of asthma treatment to reduce the amount of steroids you need to use. However, for moderate and severe cases of asthma, you may need a higher dose. Less common side effects of inhalers will not affect everyone but may affect some people with asthma.
These less common side effects include:
- increased appetite
- increased risk of infections
- puffiness, especially around the face
- high blood pressure
- mood swings
- stomach ulcers
- adrenal insufficiency
- glaucoma and cataracts
- increased bruising
- weakening of the bones
If you have any concerns about side effects caused by your asthma inhalers it is important to continue to take your medication whilst seeking medical advice, unless you think you are having an allergic reaction, in which case you should seek advice as an emergency. You should speak to your GP before stopping your medication, even if you are worried about side effects. Stopping medication without expert advice could make your symptoms get worse or you could suffer a life-threatening asthma attack. Your GP will be able to adjust your asthma medication plan in order to manage any side effects.
What other asthma treatments are there?
Asthma treatments are normally provided through the use of inhalers which prevent or relieve symptoms. Some other treatments may be used in addition to inhalers or as extra ways to manage asthma.
These are generally prescribed if inhalers do not control your asthma effectively. The most common type of tablets are Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists (LTRA). Theophylline and steroid tablets may also be used.
Severe asthma is sometimes controlled by injections and may be combined with inhalers as a treatment. Injections will be given regularly, usually once every 2 to 4 weeks.
Injections that help to control asthma symptoms are:
- omalizumab (Xolair)
- benralizumab (Fasenra)
- mepolizumab (Nucala)
- reslizumab (Cinqaero)
This is a relatively new treatment which is used for the most severe cases of asthma and involves an operation. The aim of this operation is to weaken the muscles around your airways and to stop them from narrowing. Early research suggests that bronchial thermoplasty can reduce the amount of asthma attacks and also how serious they are when they do happen.
There is not very much evidence about the long term side effects or the effectiveness of this treatment for asthma. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of bronchial thermoplasty before recommending the treatment.
The Buteyko method and the Papworth Method are breathing techniques (exercises) that aim to reduce asthma symptoms. Some evidence suggests they can be effective for reducing symptoms of asthma. The Buteyko method teaches you to breathe slowly through your nostrils which keeps air warm and moist, reducing the sensitivity of your airways. The Papworth Method is used by physiotherapists and teaches you breathing techniques which match different activities.
Asthma Facts and Statistics (2021) Asthma UK [accessed 07 June 2021]
Asthma Treatment (2021) NHS Online [accessed 08 June 2021]
Breathing exercises for adults with asthma (2020) National Library of Medicine [accessed 08 June 2021]
Respiratory Inhaler Identification Chart (2016) NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde [accessed 08 June 2021]
Safety and effectiveness of bronchial thermoplasty after 10 years in patients with persistent asthma (B10+): a follow-up of three randomised controlled trials (2021) The Lancet [accessed 08 June 2021]
Steroid Inhalers (2021) NHS Online [accessed 08 June 2021]