over the counter asthma inhaler

The respiratory system of the human body carries out a crucial role in keeping one alive. It is through the respiratory system that air is exchanged between the body and the environment. A person takes in oxygen from the surrounding and exhales carbon dioxide which is a product of metabolic processes. Some medical conditions interfere with the respiratory process by impairing the function of the system and asthma is one of them. If you are operating on a low budget, an over the counter asthma inhaler can be a good option to consider when developing a treatment plan.


Asthma is a chronic disease that causes impaired airflow in the bronchial tubules. It is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Asthma typically presents with wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. The asthmatic attacks occur in varying frequencies among different people. Cold conditions, allergens and exercise normally trigger the asthmatic attacks. However, in the most severe situations where the patient can hardly take in hair, wheezing will not occur. Sometimes the only noticeable sign is coughing. It is also possible to have other signs other than those in the respiratory tract. The common extrapulmonary symptoms in asthma patients are allergic rhinitis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis.

Inflammation of the airways, intermittent obstruction of airflow and bronchial hyper-responsiveness are the mechanisms by which asthma comes about.

The inflammation in asthma patients may occur acutely or develop over a long period of time. Inflammation is the usual body response to injury. The inflammatory process is supposed to eventually bring about healing and restoration of function. However, in asthma, inflammation makes the situation worse. There is leakage of fluid from the vascular system to the interstitial spaces, and this contributes to obstruction of the airway. Increased secretion of mucus and the movement of neutrophils and eosinophils into the airway further worsens the blockage.

The increased incidence of asthma in developed countries has been linked to the hygiene hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, the modern day population in westernized countries lives in an environment that is devoid of many antigens unlike in the past. Therefore, the body is not sensitized, and the immune system tends to produce inflammatory mediators inappropriately. These mediators are responsible for the inflammation in asthma patients.

The airway obstruction in asthma can be a result of several other factors. Constriction of the airways is one of the immediate causes of obstruction especially after exposure to an allergen, and it occurs due to the mediators that are released by antibodies. Later on, edema of the airways ensues. When there is a chronic state of inflammation, the structure of the airways changes permanently and leads to irreversible constriction, an occurrence that is termed as remodeling.

Asthma can be staged as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent or severe persistent. Patients who fall in the intermittent group experience two or fewer episodes of attacks in a week. The mild persistent group has more than two episodes every week.

Moderate persistent patients experience the daily presentation of symptoms. In the severe persistent stage, there is a continuous manifestation of symptoms.

Asthma can also be classified as atopic and non-atopic. Atopic asthma is triggered by allergens whereas non-atopic asthma just comes about due to intrinsic body factors.

Other Classifications of Asthma

Exercise-Induced Asthma

In this kind of asthma, there is bronchoconstriction and subsequent obstruction of airflow when one engages in physical activity during work or exercise. There is normally a cutoff in terms of the length of the exercise period and the intensity. Exercise-induced asthma is common among athletes.

Occupational Asthma

Some occupations predispose people to asthma such as spray painting, carpentry, baking, and chemical works

Aspirin-Induced Asthma

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin can cause exacerbation of symptoms in asthma patients.

Causes of Asthma

The causes of asthma are termed as multifactorial because they can be influenced both genetically and environmentally. People with a genetic predisposition will start showing signs before the age of 12 years. These are individuals who have a positive family history of asthma.

People whose asthma is due to environmental factors start showing signs of the condition when they are older than 12 years of age. The common environmental factors include air pollution, allergens, and smoking during pregnancy.

Prevention and Management

Some of the measures that can be undertaken to reduce the risk of asthma include keeping the environment free of pollutants, wearing protective gear at high-risk occupations and cessation of smoking in pregnancy. People who are allergic to fur should keep animals away from their homes.

Asthma has no cure, and the best that can be done is to relieve the symptoms. The goals are majorly to eliminate the exacerbating agent and to restore normal respiratory function. Bronchodilators are commonly used in the management of asthma. They relieve the short term symptoms. In prolonged cases, corticosteroids, leukotriene antagonists and mast cell stabilizers are used. Anticholinergic agents are also used to ease the stiffness of the muscles of the bronchial walls.

For mild disease, the prognosis is good. With the current modes of management, children who are diagnosed early and started on treatment show very few symptoms when they are grownups.

Over the Counter Asthma Inhalers

The prescription only medications can be expensive, and you might turn to over the counter asthma inhalers for symptomatic relief. A few years back, you could have accessed many OTC asthma inhalers that were made of epinephrine, but FDA faced out most of them which contained CFC propellants. Manufacturers have since switched to use of hydro-fluoroalkane as the propellant.


AsthmaNefrin is one of the options you have if you are looking to buy over the counter asthma relievers. It contains racemic epinephrine. The drug acts by relaxing the muscles of the inflamed bronchial walls. In the end, the bronchi dilate, and airflow to and from the lungs is sufficiently restored. The onset of action of AsthmaNefrin is one to five minutes, and its effects last for one to three hours.

AsthmaNefrin is in a fluid formulation, but it is turned into a fine mist by the atomizer so that it can be inhaled into the lungs.

This medication is contraindicated in patients with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid disease. If the symptoms are not relieved within 20 minutes, or they worsen after administering the drug, seek medical attention immediately.

The adverse effects of AsthmaNefrin include tachycardia, arrhythmia, sweating, headaches, restlessness, nausea, angina, tremors, rebound airway edema, cerebral hemorrhage and ventricular fibrillation.

Over the Counter Epinephrine

Epinephrine OTC is available in several concentrations, and it works as a quick reliever of asthma symptoms. Some preparations have preservatives and are therefore not supposed to be used by people who are allergic to the preservatives. Epinephrine has a quick onset of action. When frequently used, one may develop tolerance to epinephrine, and the patient will be required to take more inhalations which continually produce an inefficient response.

Always make proper use of the inhaler to realize the maximum benefits of the drug.


Ventolin can be purchased over the counter in some countries. The drug contains albuterol as its active ingredient. Albuterol is a beta 2 receptor agonist that relaxes the bronchial smooth muscles and restores sufficient airflow.

If there is reduced response even with increased doses or frequency of use, the treatment will need to be reevaluated.

The common side effects of Ventolin include insomnia, nausea, fever, vomiting, headache, dizziness, cough and nervousness. It can also cause low potassium levels in blood and changes in blood glucose levels.

In A Nutshell

Asthma is a common respiratory condition world over, and its management is therefore crucial. One of the ways of managing the condition is by the use of over the counter asthma inhalers. These inhalers work to quickly relieve the symptoms of asthma and rid one of the discomforts so that they can proceed with their normal daily activities. Currently, there are a number of asthma inhalers available but not so many can be purchased over the counter. When you are taking the inhaled medications for the first time, ask your doctor how to use the device correctly.

Tags: Over the Counter Asthma Inhalers, Asthma