Overuse of inhalers is causing serious side effects

Roisin Phelan

Overusing an inhaler could be dangerous to your health, according to the Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI). 

The ASI has recently announced their concern over asthmatics overusing their prescribed reliever inhalers. They say that this overuse can lead to health issues such as exacerbation and even death.

According to the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), “if you use three or more inhalers a year, it is an indication that you care at risk of a severe asthma exacerbation. While the use of 12 or more a year is an indication that you are at risk of an asthma-related death”.

The inhalers, which many people will recognise, are used to treat and relieve the symptoms of asthma. 12 per cent of the Irish population are diagnosed with asthma however the number of individuals who suffer from “asthma like symptoms” is thought to be higher.

According to research done by hmR Ireland in 2019 three out of ten individuals who use inhalers are at a risk of asthma related death due to overuse.

The research also shows that within five years of diagnosis half of the asthma population are over reliant on their inhaler for relief. Indicating that asthmatics are developing an over-reliance over time rather than upon initial diagnosis.

CEO of the ASI, Sarah O’Connor has said that this research is “stark and very worrying”.

“As people with asthma get older, their rate of over-reliance increases, resulting in increased levels of uncontrolled asthma. A key point at which people become over-reliant on their reliever inhaler is between year one (year of diagnosis) and year two,” she said.

The recommended usage of different inhalers varies substantially with the HSE recommending usage of a bronchodilator inhaler every 30-60 minutes for up to three-hour periods if symptoms require it. However, for steroid inhalers they recommend only four uses per day, two in the morning and two in the evening regardless of symptoms.

The HSE also suggest that “any patient using more than two reliever inhalers in a year have their technique and compliance checked.”

The ASI are calling asthmatics to get their asthma “under control” and recommend that they download an Asthma Action Plan from asthma.ie and speak with their healthcare professional specifically about their asthma medications to ensure that they are not under or overusing them.


Roisin Phelan

Image Credit: Pxfuel