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Sonia Munde: In asthma treatment, consistency saves lives

Ensuring asthma reliever inhalers remain blue will help to avoid confusion in an emergency, says the head of Asthma UK’s helpline.
Asthmatic

Ensuring asthma reliever inhalers remain blue will help to avoid confusion in an emergency, says the head of Asthma UKs helpline

The term blue inhaler has been synonymous with asthma patients reliever medication for many years. Its an example of clear, simple, consistent health messaging that is used widely and successfully by people with asthma and healthcare professionals.

The blue colouring is an important safety feature that the UK Inhaler Group is rightly campaigning to make official. This initiative is a response to controversial cases over the past couple of years, where pharmaceutical companies have attempted to stray from this unofficial colour convention.

In a marketplace awash with different types of device, the blue inhaler is a familiar friend to people with asthma. The familiarity of the term can be

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Ensuring asthma reliever inhalers remain blue will help to avoid confusion in an emergency, says the head of Asthma UK’s helpline

The term ‘blue inhaler’ has been synonymous with asthma patients’ reliever medication for many years. It’s an example of clear, simple, consistent health messaging that is used widely and successfully by people with asthma and healthcare professionals.


The blue colour of inhalers helps users and healthcare professionals. Picture: iStock

The blue colouring is an important safety feature that the UK Inhaler Group is rightly campaigning to make official. This initiative is a response to controversial cases over the past couple of years, where pharmaceutical companies have attempted to stray from this unofficial colour convention.

In a marketplace awash with different types of device, the blue inhaler is a familiar friend to people with asthma. The familiarity of the term can be a life-saver during the fear and confusion of an asthma attack, making it easier for a 999 operator to give a patient clear instructions. And the blue colour is also easily identifiable for those people not in day-to-day contact with asthma, such as teachers or carers, who may be called on to help in an emergency.

Brand consistency

But just as consistency of colour is important in an emergency, consistency of brand can play a role in preventing asthma attacks in the first place. Each brand of inhaler requires a slightly different technique to use correctly. We know through our Asthma UK survey that up to two thirds of people don’t use their inhaler in the right way. Chopping and changing between inhaler brands can hinder the development of good technique, whereas sticking to the same design will help people deliver their medication correctly.

It is also important that patients have a device that matches their lifestyle to encourage them to take their medication as prescribed. For example, a large spacer inhaler isn’t going to suit a commuter crammed into a train for many hours each week.

If we can help people with asthma combine all these elements of inhaler use with the most important aspect – regular technique checks with a GP or asthma nurse – then we’ll help to ensure that the blue reliever inhaler, which hopefully will remain blue, is needed as little as possible.


About the author

Sonia Munde is head of Asthma UK’s helpline and clinical nurse manager

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