Asthmatic patients in India don’t use inhalers enough due to social stigma, though it is an effective treatment, experts suggest.
“There is a kind of stigma attached to the use of inhalers, especially among girls of marriageable age. I have received requests from many parents to give oral pills to their daughters so that there is no problem in their marriage,” said Dr MK Sen, professor, pulmunology department, Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College. The college is associated with Safdarjung Hospital.
Dr Sen said people associate the long-term use of inhalers with addiction.
Doctors said inhalers are not just for emergency use. They are to be taken according to a prescribed dose to keep attacks at bay.
“More often than not, people stop using the inhalers once they feel better…It is like diabetes medicine, which needs to be taken in order to prevent a mishap,” said Dr Vikas Maurya, senior consultant, respiratory medicine, BL Kapoor Hospital. He said only 30%-40% of asthmatics adhere to their medicine regimen.
A person suffering from moderate to severe asthma should take medicines regularly through inhalers and have emergency medication at hand.
Doctors emphasised that inhalation is merely a delivery mechanism and the medicine is the same as the oral pills.
“It is better to take inhalers as it delivers the medication directly into the airway which gets constricted. The time it takes to act and the dosage are a lot lesser,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, head of department of pulmonary medicine at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
He said the same medication, if taken orally, would take two hours to start working as the digestive system has to first absorb it. “The side effects are also fewer (with inhalers),” he said.
Doctors also advised patients to keep away from triggers such as cold, dust, smoke and protect themselves against pollution.
Studies suggest 2% of the adults and 9%-15% children are asthmatics in India. This is lower than the prevalence in developed countries.