How do I Choose the Best Inhaler for Bronchitis?

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  • Originally Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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Choosing the best inhaler for bronchitis is usually a matter of understanding your diagnosis, learning about the options, and talking to your healthcare provider about what might work best for you. There are usually two different sorts of inhalers to choose from, namely those that are powder-based and those that are liquefied. Both have generally good results, but one may be better than the other for you — or you may find that neither is a good fit. Inhaling steam is an at-home remedy that works for many people and doesn’t require a prescription.

Understand the Options

There are typically two different sorts of inhalers that can be prescribed for bronchitis, and understanding the basics of each might help you make the best choice. A “metered dose” inhaler is one of the most common, and is typically the best way to deliver a liquefied, mist-based type of medication that can help soothe your bronchial passages. The alternative prepares an active powder for inhalation.


Metered dose devices are very similar to the inhalers used by asthma patients, and usually involve holding a small tube or pump a short distance from your mouth or placing it inside your mouth while pumping a carefully measured dose of bronchitis medication inside. You then slowly inhale the medication, remove the device from your mouth, and hold the medicine inside your lungs for a few seconds before exhaling. This process might be repeated as directed. If you find this inhaler to be easy to use and effective, it might be the best one for you to choose.

A dry powder inhaler is breath-controlled rather than manually pumped; you start by loading medicated powder into a small disc or plate, then slowly “puffing” it just outside of your mouth. When the powder is released, usually with a button or trigger, you inhale it. You have to be very careful under this system not to exhale into the device, however, because any moisture from your breath can cause medication to cling to the sides of the inhaler and interrupt the dosage amounts of future uses.

Learn About Your Condition

Your choice might also depend on the severity of your condition, as well as how long it has lasted. Bronchitis is characterized by a swelling of the bronchial tubes, which enable a person to breathe freely; when these tubes become inflamed, coughing, wheezing, and a shortness of breath often follow. The initial swelling usually is caused by an infection or by an irritant, such as cigarette smoke or pollution.

Bronchitis generally falls into one of two distinct categories, depending on how frequently it occurs. Acute bronchitis occurs after a respiratory infection and generally lasts for a few weeks, whereas and chronic bronchitis is a continual affliction. People suffering from the chronic form often find that a metered dose inhaler is easier to use simply because it travels well and is less prone to errors when used repeatedly over time, but not always. A lot of this depends on the individual patient.

Seek a Professional Opinion

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to get the opinion of your primary care provider when choosing an inhaler for bronchitis. Doctors, nurses, and medical assistants who treat many patients often have a better sense of what works for people in your situation and what doesn’t, and will probably have some suggestions that will help you make your decision. Some inhalers require a prescription, which means that a medical professional will probably be involved at some step. Showing an interest in your options and understanding what’s available can help you and your care provider make the best possible choice.

Safety Precautions

Inhalers typically dispense medication, which makes proper dosing a pressing concern. It’s important that you read the instructions accompanying whichever inhaler you choose, and following them precisely is often essential to getting all of the intended benefits. If you don’t see improvement in your condition after a few weeks of use, it’s usually a good idea to make an appointment for an evaluation and either get a stronger dose of medication of strategize a new treatment plan.

At-Home Remedies

Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be able to make your own inhaler at home using steam. Steam treatments do not require a prescription or even a particular medication in most cases. You can inhale the steam from boiling water or a vaporizer; holding your head over a hot cup of tea or a sink filled with steaming hot water might also work, and is a very low-cost, at-home option. Many people find that draping the head with a towel will help trap the warm, moist air. This may be the best choice if your condition is not severe, you are wary of medications, or you’d simply like to see if you can clear things up on your own. If things don’t improve, though, it’s usually a good idea to get medical help.


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Discuss this Article

Post 3

After having a surgery for esophageal cancer, I would aspirate sometimes during sleeping. I woke up one time and had it so bad that after trying to cough it all out, I started my old bronchitis again.

I had a real hard time breathing and I found my old Proair HFA inhaler and took a couple puffs. It started immediately working and I could breathe normally again. It was dated to expire two years ago and luckily for me it still worked. I have a new prescription for it now and plan to keep it. It saved me from passing out or worse. I was alone at the time.

Post 2

My mom had to use an inhaler a few years ago when she had a particularly severe case of bronchitis, so I got to know way too much about the different types of inhalers.

For instance, did you know that some inhalers for bronchitis have a spacer. An inhaler with a spacer has an area where the medication is stored until you breathe it in.

Sometimes these inhalers also use a mask, so they can be used for the treatment of bronchitis in infants and toddlers.

Post 1

I always thought inhalers were just for asthma. I'd never heard of them being used as a treatment for bronchitis. As I've had bronchitis plenty of times, I guess I'm lucky that it didn't get to the point where an inhaler was necessary.

I'm happy for that, because I don't think I would do very well having to inhale medication. It sounds pretty uncomfortable.

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