Monday, October 20, 2008

Spacers for asthma inhalers

Asthma inhalers that use hydrofluoroalkanes (HFA) as a propellant can all benefit from using a spacer with the metered dose inhalers. The canisters contain a mixture of the medication and the HFA propellant under high pressure. When the inhaler is actuated, by pressing down, a premeasured amount of the mixture of HFA propellant and medication is released. Visually a puff of gas is seen. This comes out at nearly sixty miles per hour. Even with perfectly coordinated inhalation while actuating the inhaler, most of the medication ends up on the tongue or the back of the throat. A spacer is simply a plastic tube that traps the puff of medication and reduces the speed before the patient inhales the medication. Most patients would benefit from using a spacer theoretically.

Many kinds of spacers have been patented and sold for the past thirty or so years. There are several brands of spacers available for commercial purchase currently. They vary in size, volume, construction materials, having valves internally, mouth pieces, ability to collapse, durability, and of course price. Unfortunately, I have found only one single insurance company that will cover spacers, Medicaid. Otherwise, spacers when purchased at pharmacies are often quoted a price of $50. My research on the Internet shows that spacers can be purchased for less than $50. If you need a spacer, I recommend purchasing a spacer at either our office, because you can examine them, or on-line. Prices from $10 to $35, excluding shipping, can be found easily. Don't forget if you're buying this for a young child to purchase a mask also. I have examined more than fifteen spacers. The problem is that, like purchasing a car, one brand does not suit everyone. The most commonly purchased spacers are the MicroChamber, OptiHaler, AeroChamber, (Aerochamber with mask), Vortex and E-Z spacer.
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If you use an inhaler with HFA propellant, consider a spacer for greater efficiency to increase the amount of medication going into the lungs while reducing the side effects from medication going on the tongue and throat. Don't forget to always rinse your mouth out after using any inhaler. If you have questions about spacers, ask your doctor.

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