What’s the Difference Between Blue and Brown Inhalers?

Blue and brown inhalers are the most common types of inhalers available, and they both work differently to help manage asthma. You can get relief from asthma symptoms with a blue inhaler, whereas a brown inhaler will help to prevent symptoms from developing in the first place. At Superdrug Online Doctor, we can help you determine which inhaler you need, get a prescription, and have it delivered quickly to the address of your choice.

Here, we take a look at blue and brown inhalers, how they work and their key differences.

How do Asthma Inhalers Work?

Asthma inhalers work by delivering medication directly to your airways. This medication helps treat asthma symptoms to prevent an acute asthma attack or provide relief from one.

There are different types of inhalers:

Reliever inhalers: These are used to treat asthma symptoms while they are being experienced. Reliever inhalers contain short-acting bronchodilators which work by relaxing the muscles in your airways to help you breathe easier.

Preventer inhalers: These are used to prevent asthma symptoms from developing. Preventer inhalers contain steroids and work by reducing the swelling that causes your airways to narrow. The narrowing of these airways leads to asthma symptoms.

Combination inhalers: These contain both long-acting bronchodilators and steroids and are used if your usual preventer inhaler is not working well enough. Combination inhalers prevent symptoms from developing and provide long-lasting relief if symptoms occur. They do not replace reliever inhalers, which have short-acting bronchodilators and work faster to relieve symptoms.

Understanding what might be causing your asthma is essential to prevent attacks and help you and your doctor determine what type of inhalers you should use.

What is a Blue Inhaler?

A blue inhaler is usually a reliever inhaler.

The active ingredient in a reliever inhaler is a short-acting bronchodilator, usually salbutamol or terbutaline. These are designed to immediately relieve asthma symptoms as they relax the airways and help you breathe more easily.

Here at Superdrug Online Doctor, we have two different brands of blue inhalers available:

What is a Brown Inhaler?

A brown inhaler is usually a preventer inhaler.

The active ingredient in a preventer inhaler is a steroid. Different types of steroids are used in preventer inhalers, but they all work in the same way by reducing inflammation and swelling of airways. Used over time, a preventer inhaler makes your airways stronger and less likely to react to asthma triggers.

Preventer inhalers do not provide immediate relief from asthma symptoms and will not help provide relief during an asthma attack.

Examples of the different types of steroids include beclometasone, budesonide, ciclesonide, fluticasone and mometasone.

Here at Superdrug Online Doctor, we have three different brands of brown inhalers available:

The Key Differences

The key difference between a blue inhaler and a brown inhaler is that the blue inhaler provides immediate relief from an asthma attack. In contrast, a brown inhaler helps reduce the likelihood of future episodes.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of an asthma attack, such as shortness of breath, wheezing or a tightening of the chest, use the blue inhaler to provide relief.

Always discuss any concerns about your asthma treatment with a doctor. You can do this on Superdrug Online Doctor via your patient account free of charge.

Other Types of Inhalers

Blue and brown inhalers are the most commonly prescribed inhalers for asthma treatment, so these are the inhalers you will usually see. However, there are other inhalers that can be prescribed if needed.

Green inhalers

You will occasionally come across green inhalers. These are usually long-acting beta2 agonist inhalers (LABAs) used to treat COPD. An example of an inhaler that is coloured green is the Neovent reliever inhaler.

If your doctor has prescribed you a green inhaler, you should follow the instructions for how and when to use it carefully.

While we’re talking about all things green in the world of inhalers, it’s worth noting that if you want to make an environmentally friendly choice when using your inhalers, consider switching to dry powder inhalers (also called accuhalers). The most commonly used inhalers are pressurised metered-dose inhalers (pMDI), which use hydrofluorocarbon gas to help get the medicine out of the canister and into your lungs. Hydrofluorocarbon gas doesn’t damage the ozone layer but is a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. More information is available at Green Inhaler.

Purple inhalers

Purple inhalers are usually combination inhalers. Here at Superdrug Online Doctor, we have one brand of purple inhaler available: Seretide.

There are two active ingredients in Seretide: a corticosteroid called fluticasone which reduces inflammation, and a long-acting bronchodilator called salmeterol, which keeps the airways open.

Seretide is available as both a dry powder accuhaler and a pMDI inhaler. We can provide the accuhaler.

Red inhalers

Red inhalers can be preventer or combination inhalers, so always check the packaging and read the instructions carefully to ensure you are using it correctly.

At Superdrug Online Doctor, we provide the most common red inhalers.

Qvar:

  • preventer MDI inhaler
  • contains a corticosteroid called beclometasone
  • use daily to prevent asthma symptoms from developing

Symbicort:

  • combination inhaler
  • contains a corticosteroid called budesonide and a bronchodilator called formoterol
  • use daily to prevent asthma symptoms from developing and to provide long-lasting relief for any symptoms that do develop

Brown and white inhalers

The most common brown and white inhaler available is called Pulmicort. It is a preventer inhaler which contains the corticosteroid budesonide.

Use Pulmicort every day to prevent asthma symptoms from developing, even when you feel well. Remember that you cannot use a preventer inhaler to provide relief from symptoms while you are experiencing them.

Which Inhaler is Right for Me?

Working out which inhaler is right for you can take time and may also change during your lifetime as you experience different triggers which impact your asthma symptoms.

Your doctor will consider how severe your asthma is, your triggers and any other needs you may have. They will also talk to you about how you use your inhaler to ensure you are using it correctly and getting the correct dose of medication to manage your symptoms.

Always talk to your doctor if you have any issues with your inhaler and if you use it more than usual. If you are worried about your symptoms and your inhaler is not helping, call 999. Do not delay getting medical help if you are having an asthma attack.

Sources

Asthma inhalers (2023) Patient Info [accessed 17 May 2023]

Asthma treatment (2021) NHS [accessed 17 May 2023]

How is asthma treated? (2012) AsthmaandLung.org [accessed 17 May 2023]

Respiratory Inhaler Identification Chart (2016) NHS Glasgow [accessed 17 May 2023]

Steroid inhalers (2023) NHS [accessed 17 May 2023]

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