Inhaler overuse ‘can cause harm’

POWERFUL inhalers used by asthma sufferers can make their lungs produce harmful chemicals and significantly increase the chances of an attack if used too frequently, researchers have claimed.

A new study on asthma treatments has found that, despite the importance of the valuable medical device, overuse can pose more harm than good to those suffering from the condition.

Inhalers are used to relieve asthma symptoms by relaxing the muscles in airways which have become narrowed by the illness, making it easier to breathe.

However, research carried out at Leicester University has concluded that, when used on a regular basis, common treatments such as Ventolin can cause the lungs to release harmful chemicals.

“Sufferers should still use their inhalers when needed but there is evidence that they can make symptoms worse if used toooften,” Prof Peter Bradding, head of the research team, warned. “When we exposed cells in the lab to the inhaler drugs over a period of time, they increased the release of lung chemicals that bring on attacks. Despite their usefulness in rapidly relieving asthma, relievers may cause asthma to worsen when used too frequently. Moreover, they are not always as effective as predicted.”

The research has been hailed as having clear implications for the use of inhalers in Britain. However, the Asthma Society of Ireland – which represents almost 470,000 sufferers in this country – has warned that, despite the concerns, patients must continue to use the equipment.

“They should make no changes to their medication,” urged a spokesman for the group. “Current treatment in asthma control usually includes the prescribed use of a reliever, with specific guidelines on frequency and dosage, thereby reducing the overuse of this medication.

“If one finds they are using reliever inhalers more often than twice a week, they should contact their GP or asthma nurse to have their asthma control assessed.”

While treatments for the condition have drastically improved in recent decades, an almost 470,000 people in this country currently suffer from various forms of the condition, a significant proportion of whom are children.

* Anyone with concerns about the use of inhalers is asked to contact the Asthma Society of Ireland’s helpline on 1850 44 54 64.

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