How Do Inhalers Work?

Inhalers work as medicine to treat asthma. There are several different types of drugs and medications to control this disease. Learn more in this article.
How Do Inhalers Work?
José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli

Written and verified by the doctor José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli.

Last update: 12 May, 2022

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease. Because of it, the bronchi become inflamed and shrink. Therefore, it’s harder for air to get to the lungs when you breathe in and it’s necessary to use inhalers.

Meanwhile, swelling may occur because of an allergic reaction to certain stimuli. This is because the bronchi may be more sensitive or too active to the external environment. This can happen because of the cold, exercise, tobacco smoke, and more. Then, the bronchi close and prevent the patient from breathing normally.

Although we know what triggers asthma attacks, specialists still don’t know exactly what causes the disease. Also, it’s partially genetic because it’s more common in patients with a family history.

In addition, patients may go through periods without symptoms,then seasons with asthma attacks. Some of the most common symptoms are coughing, wheezing, sounds while breathing, and difficulty breathing even at rest. Other symptoms are mucous, sneezing and more.

Once doctors identify this disease, the medical team will come up with the best treatment plan. There are two different therapies for treatment:

  • Lifestyle changes. This is based on adopting a series of simple guidelines to prevent asthma attacks and key symptoms. For example, patients should avoid environments that make it hard to breathe.
  • Using inhalers to relieve the symptoms.

What Are Inhalers?

As a general rule, this term refers to a group of medications used to treat asthma. You can use them during an asthma attack or to prevent one.

Inhalers work both to treat and prevent asthma.

On the other hand, depending on their characteristics and effects on each patient, you can use different types of inhalers. In any case, the medical team will tell you their possible side effects. You’ll also deterimine how effective and how long inhalers work for after trying them.

What Types Are There and How Do They Work?

The most common inhalers are:

Anti-Inflammatory Inhalers

These inhalers work because they reduce possible inflammation of the mucosa in the bronchi. Generally, these use corticosteroids like Fluticasone, Budesonide or Beclomethasone.

Other recommendations are sodium cromoglycate or sodium nedrocromil. Nowadays, you can take doses by inhaling or by mouth. They keep asthma stable and without symptoms.

Discover: 8 Tips to Treat and Control Asthma

Bronchodilator Inhalers

Within this category, there are two different types:

  • Beta-2 adrenergic agonists. Usually, these are the most common bonchodilators that medical teams recommend. They act on the muscles around the bronchi. Therefore, airways can relax quickly so they can work right. To do this, they block a chemical compound called acetylcholine.
  • Methylxanthines. These are also responsible for relaxing and expanding bronchi. Therefore, they improve blood flow in the area. That way, the heart can work better and you can breathe easier.
Inhalers work in children so they can play like normal.

Antihistamine Inhalers

This group of chemical compounds decrease sensitivity to allergens. Therefore, they stop reactions to things like the cold, tobacco smoke, and more. Therefore, they control asthma symptoms.

Above all, they stop sneezing, itchy eyes, watery eyes, and other nasal issues.


This is for patients who are allergic to things that trigger symptoms. Generally, doctors administer the allergen itself in very small amounts. Later, the patient’s body gets used to the trigger, which reduces asthma attacks.

One of the most common substances is Omalizumab.

Leukotriene Inhibitors

Leukotriene inhibitors also act as anti-inflammatory medications within airways. This way, you can control possible symptoms.

Bronchial Thermoplasty

This is a new technique that specialists are testing now. It’s a controlled application of heat in hyperactive zones to reduce inflammation because of foreign particles.

Overall, your doctor will help you determine which treatment plan is best for you if you’ve been diagnosed with asthma.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Inhibitory effects of an anti-IgE antibody E25 on allergen-induced early asthmatic response. Boulet LP, Chapman KR, Cote J, et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1997;155:1835-1840.
  • The effect of an anti-IgE monoclonal antibody on the early and late-phase responses to allergen inhalation in asthmatics subjects. Fahy JV, Fleming E, Wong H, et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1997;155:1828-1834.
  • Sano, Y.; Ogawa, T.; Houjo, T.; Tou, T.; Otom, M. Anti-inflamatory effect of Suplatast on mild asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1997;155: A203.
  • Skoner DP. Balacing safety and efficacy in pediatric asthma management. Pediatrics, 109 (2002), pp. 381-92

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.