In movies from the 1980′s, one common character was the stereotypical nerd. We, as the audience, could immediately recognize a nerd because of a few distinguishing physical factors. These physical factors included white shirts, high water pants, and suspenders, pocket protectors, big noses, greasy, oily skin and large, horn-rimmed coke-bottle glasses. And when the “nerd” character got into any sort of physical altercation, he immediately reached for his prop – the asthma inhaler.
Asthma inhalers became known as a nerdy prop, and the cool kids – whether in the movies or in real life – suddenly wouldn’t not be caught dead with this life saving contraption. A stigma arose around asthma and asthma inhalers. One perhaps compounded by President Teddy Roosevelt’s conquest of his own asthma by extreme physical activity. Roosevelt’s triumph seemed to suggest that people with asthma were simply not trying hard enough to kick the condition. In fact, asthma as a chronic disease that can be kicked in some cases, but much more often, cannot. Asthma inhalers (sometimes called metered dose inhalers or MDIs) are essential, life saving devices for people with asthma. As for the nerd carrying around the asthma inhaler with his pocket protector? That is a pure fictional stereotype, one that was probably created when it was found that some asthmatic children could not play school sports due to their respiratory condition. If they couldn’t be jocks, the old movies seemed to suggest, what else could they be but nerds?
Asthma inhalers, of course, serve a vital purpose for men, women and children who suffer from the respiratory condition asthma. Asthma inhalers deliver a specific amount of medication to the lungs. They do so in the form of a short squirt or burst of aerosolized medicine that is squirted into the mouth. This is then inhaled by the patient, reaching his or her lungs. Asthma inhalers delivering respiratory medicine in aerosolized form are the most commonly used devices by which to deliver inhaled medicine. Inhalers can also be used to deliver medication to the lungs for other conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The asthma inhaler consists of three major components. The canister is where the medicine resides when not in use. The metering valve exists to mete out the appropriate measures of medicine with each squirt. The third piece of the asthma inhaler, the actuator (also known as the mouthpiece), allows the patience to operate the device. The actuator also makes sure that the aerosol is dispensed directly into the patient’s lungs. The actuator on an asthma inhaler will also generally include a dust cap. This, of course, keeps dust and other contaminants from getting into the asthma inhaler and gumming up the works.
So what kind of medicine is actually dispensed by an asthma inhaler? The formulas vary, but they are generally composed of whichever asthma drug the doctor has provided, as well as a liquefied gas propellant. Also, in many cases, stabilizing factors are added to the mixture to keep everything in check and working well together.
Use of an inhaler is easy. It has to be because, for one, young children often have to use them, and two, because people sometimes have to use asthma inhalers in desperate situations where their lungs are not taking in enough air. The types of inhalers commonly used in dire situations such as that are called rescue asthma inhalers or sometimes merely rescue inhalers. To use the inhaler, the asthma sufferer simply presses down on top of the canister. The medicine is then dispensed – in a single dose – into the mouth in aerosolized form. It then goes on to the lungs.
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