Do Asthma Inhalers Go Bad?

Any individual who’s ever experienced an asthma attack knows that the only factor that matters is being able to breathe normally again. Depending on the severity of an asthma attack, a person may only have a few moments to quickly get the flare-up under control before the situation becomes life-threatening. Especially for people that rarely experience asthma flare-ups, the question might arise as to whether or not using an expired inhaler is safe in an emergency.

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Inhalers have a one-year shelf life

As with other medications, both over the counter (OTC) or prescription, using a prescription inhaler that’s expired means that the potency and efficiency may be diminished. Typically, most asthma inhalers, including both rescue and long-term control versions, have a one-year expiration date from the moment an individual first opens the foil packaging. But long-term control inhalers are normally prescribed for daily use, sometimes multiple times a day. So, the risk of using an expired daily use inhaler is lower.

So, are expired inhalers safe to use?

Consider that often rescue inhalers such as albuterol sulfate aren’t intended for everyday use but are often carried as an emergency option. These prescriptions are kept in purses, backpacks, or other containers that are more likely to experience temperature changes, which can impact the efficacy of the medication. While an expired inhaler might not be the ideal solution, in an emergency, using an expired inhaler is better than leaving symptoms untreated.

Get a new prescription immediately

For people with asthma who are generally well-controlled but experiencing an unexpected flare-up, doctors recommend getting a new rescue inhaler filled immediately. While the expired rescue inhaler can serve as an emergency solution to temporarily ease symptoms and improve breathing, the old medication doesn’t work as efficiently and shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution.

Work to improve asthma outlook

Rescue inhalers are intended to work exactly as the name implies, as a quick fix to correct an unexpected or sudden flare-up of asthma symptoms. Individuals should consider how often rescue inhalers are used and work with a physician to improve asthma treatments. If a person is using a rescue inhaler more than twice a week, that asthma diagnosis is not considered under control.

Be proactive about controlling asthma

To date, there is no cure for asthma. So, uncontrolled asthma patients should focus on lifestyle and medication adjustments to minimize attacks. Avoid known external triggers such as pollen, pet dander, or even intense workouts. Specifically, people who frequently struggle with common symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath should focus on a treatment plan that incorporates long-term control medications. These prescriptions work as a preventative measure to reduce symptoms and the incidence of flare-ups.

The final word

All medications have expiration dates and asthma prescriptions are no different. Rescue and long-term control inhalers usually have a one-year expiration from the date the packaging is opened. But rescue inhalers are more likely to expire since the medication isn’t intended for daily use. An expired inhaler is better than no treatment in an emergency, but asthmatics should quickly work to refill the prescription. And if rescue inhaler use increases over extended periods, asthmatics should speak with a physician to create a new treatment plan.