Asthma Questions: Which Inhaler Is Which?

Question: I know that inhalers come in two different specifications: “reliever” inhalers, for when an attack hits, and “prevention” inhalers for general use. However, I am worried that in the panic of an attack I will forget which is which. How do I identify between the two, and if I do accidentally use my “prevention” inhaler during an attack, is it going to cause any problems?


First and foremost: no, there is no harm in using a preventative inhaler during an asthma attack. It will not worsen the attack or make you feel unwell in any other way. The only issue (if one can call it that) with using a preventative inhaler during an acute asthma attack is that it will not actively help with calming the attack; for that, you need the “reliever” inhaler.

As for telling the difference between the two inhalers, it depends largely on the country you are in. In some countries, the inhalers are placed in canisters which differ in colour. Most typically, the “reliever” inhaler will be in a blue delivery tube, and the “preventer” will be in a brown version. You may need to specifically request this from your chemist, so it is worth checking to see if colour-specific inhalers are available to you. The difference in colour should solve the problem of knowing which one to grab in a rush.

If the colour-specific canisters are not available, then use a labelling system or – better yet – a substance like nail polish to make each canister look different.