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How to tell if an inhaler is working?

Snce I was diagnosed earlier this year, I've had two preventers. The first one didn't have much of an affect, and I still got frequent symptoms, which got worse when I moved to uni. I told the asthma nurse at home, but she said I was fine and refused to change the inhaler. I got a new one from the asthma nurse at uni and this has worked really well in comparison, but I still get symptoms. I use my reliever about twice a week due to symptoms (and a few times before going to the gym. I still have the cough I've had since June and I still get SOB. I gave up on the gym today since I just couldn't manage. I can't measure my pf right now since I've left my meter at home so I'm not sure if that's changed.

I know the cold weather isn't going to help, and since it hasn't stopped raining for more than half an hour since I got here I can't avoid going out and getting wet. Plus everything is uphill (seriously, I never seem to go downhill!) I was just wondering if this is ok or not. It's a 20 minute walk to the health centre in the cold and rain so I don't want to go and be told it's fine! I've used the new preventer for about a month, and my first inhaler has just about ran out.

Thanks and sorry if this is a really stupid question!

12 Replies


:( re new inhaler not working. What did the new nurse give you? Is it making any difference at all? Because I've been told a month should be enough to see if it's having some effect, even if it's not yet had the full effect. Last time I was put on a new one it did nothing for about 3 weeks then suddenly started working.

It does sound like you should be going to the health centre soonish to discuss this if things aren't really improving. I'd say maybe have a chat with the AUK nurses first this week as they're the experts and you can go armed with information, but I suspect they will tell you that you need to go and tell the health centre that the new inhaler is an improvement but you're still struggling with some things as all this suggests you're not there yet with the control. Though can see your point, if you're not feeling great and had to stop the gym a 20-min walk in the rain is not ideal. Is there a bus? Or can you time it for when you might be a bit closer?

Obviously if you're really struggling today don't wait for the health centre or try to walk there, get any help you need - but got the impression you were talking more about a non-urgent discussion of inhalers etc which definitely sounds like something you should be doing soon.

How's uni otherwise? Hope it's going well and lungs not cramping your style too much! Did you go for trampolining in the end?


I've just cleaned my preventer inhaler yesterday (and that was my 1st one, given last month) & it made a difference, as I thought it had run out or very close to. However I have 2puffs morning & night, so in fairness its only half full, according to my calculations. You might be on a higher dose than me, so might not be of any help.

Also taking a dry cotton bud to the ventolin has helped as well. As these should be about the same amount of puffs left inside. (Doesn't like getting wet, or the cartridge being removed)

Whilst the puffs aren't as strong, cleaning has made a difference. So will now try & remember to clean them regularly from now on.

Also about the meter, I brought one from boots pharmacy for £13. Though maybe get another on prescription if the appointment isn't too far off.

I'll be going for a review on Tuesday, so I'll ask the question about knowing when its running out, before it stops giving out doses.


Thanks for eplying Philomela :)

She gave me symbicort 200/6 2 puffs twice a day. After a few days I noticed a massive difference, but now it almost feels like I'm going backwards!I can get same day appts at least if I have to go. Unfortunatley there isn't a bus there and the health centre is off campus so I'm never really near there. I'll have to wrap up warm and go slowly! Apparently there are plans to move the health centre to the campus though in the nexxt few years :)

Yeah, it's not urget or anything- I'm fine now I'm sat in my nice and cosy room :) It's also a good excuse not to venture to the library :P It's just the 9am lectures when I have to walk up a steep hill to the building at -1 degrees that are causing issues. My friends were actually quite concerned on friday!

I love being at uni, though some nicer weather would be nice! Not a an of smoke machnes on night out, but other than that it's not too bad if I'm not walking around. I couldn't :( Their training clashes with my timetable :(

Thanks Crystal :)

I have symbicort, which can't get wet since it all clumps up and it has a counter so it only has about 10 puffs left anyway. I already have another one. My ventolin is a new inhaler so it can't be 'dirty' or empty. When ventolin runs out it tends to squirt for a long time when you press it, rather than a quick short burst, if that helps :)

I have my pf meter at home, and I'm going on friday so there's no point me paying for a new one. The nurse'll use hers anyway if I go.


Ok so I wasn't at all helpful. I'll have to remember that about the ventol


I appreciate the reply though crystal :)


Hi Rachel

It's usual to have a review roughly 4 weeks after starting a new med to see if it's working, so perhaps you should make an appointment with the asthma nurse if she didn't schedule one for you. It sounds like the symbicort's worked to some extent, but tell the nurse that you're still coughing, struggling with walking up hills and the gym.

Good luck with getting some better control of symptoms



Thanks Lou :)

I had a review after 2 weeks and she knows that it wasn't 100% effective then. I think she just kind of thought it hadn't had enough time, but wanted to see me since she was really concerned about how low my pf was before.

I'm not sure whether to make the appt this week or wait till fri and make one for next week after I've had a chance to keep a pf diary. It's not urgent.


Rachel93, Why don't you ring the clinic and see what they think. Then they can say want they would prefer, plus you won't get sent away saying to chart the PF and come back.


I know they won't send me away as such, it's just that when I've been before I've been told to keep a pf diary for a weeks and then come back. I'd like a few values to show them.

I think I know the cause though, I woke up with a full on cold and only made it out of bed to go to my lectures. :( No wonder my chest isn't happy!


Yep, if you've got a cold it's no wonder you're suffering. My lungs only need the slightest wiff of a cold virus and they're playing up. My latest rough bit (and the one before that) started off when someone came into work complaining about being up all night with a chesty cough, a few days later and my lungs kicked off and the only sign of viral infection I had was a tiny bit of a snotty nose. I hope your cold goes soon and lungs get better.


Hi Rachel,

Sorry you're suffering a bit. It might be worth asking for a spacer device (I don't know if it works with symibicort - never had that, but it fits on normal inhalers like ventolin)it means that more of the stuff get down into your lungs apparently. Apart from that, stay warm and look after that cold - I would probably say you need to see someone this week by Friday, but you know how you feel and I know what you mean about being armed with evidence. Trouble is its a balancing act, especially with a cold too - leave it longer and it may just all be worse in the long run, but go too soon and they won't see the problem! Hope you feel better soon.


Thanks everyone :)

I never managed to make an appt - I slept all through their opening hours on tuesday and wednesday! Today though my cold has mostly gone so I only have a cough, which everyone does right now! A lecturer stopped their lecture today to ask ne of my friends if she was alright and if she wanted some water!I'm off home tomorrow at about 1 so I'll be able to do my pf but I think it'll be back up (if it ever fell). Most of thetime coughing doesn't affect it.

Since it was just a cold getting to me I think I'll leave off seeing anyone for now. There's not much they can do to help!

Thanks :)


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