What You Need To Know About Over-the-Counter Asthma Inhalers


Given the high cost of prescription inhalers, you may be wondering if OTC asthma inhalers are available in the United States. Asthmanephrine (Rapinephrine) is currently an over-the-counter inhaler medication.

These types of asthma medications are designed to temporarily relieve asthma symptoms , such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing. Before deciding to use an over-the-counter asthma inhaler, consider why it may or may not be a good option.

Illustration by Emily Roberts, Get Drug Information


How sure are you that you have asthma? Many patients report using OTC products prior to diagnosis, even though OTC asthma inhalers are not labeled for this purpose. Classic asthma causes the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

However, these symptoms can be part of other serious medical conditions. An over-the-counter asthma inhaler can relieve symptoms and mask some more serious conditions, such as heart disease or COPD . If you are unsure of your symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor.

Additionally, OTC asthma inhalers state on their packaging that they are for temporary relief only, and the recently approved OTC asthma medication clearly states that a physician must diagnose asthma prior to use.

Asthma is not a minor disease. You may be at risk for a fatal asthma attack. If your symptoms are not well controlled, an over-the-counter asthma inhaler is probably not for you.

Side effects

Like prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs also have a risk of side effects . Common side effects of OTC asthma inhalers include :

  • Appetite changes
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Instability
  • Sinus pain
  • Throat pain
  • Shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Threw up

Security Considerations

Lastly, is an over-the-counter inhaler safe for asthma? Some healthcare providers do not consider OTC asthma inhalers to be safe. They point out that medications for other serious illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease, are not available without a prescription.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning specifically for astmanephrine and its EZ Breathe spray. They warned patients that they received complaints of chest pain, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, and pink or red regurgitation. sputum. Additionally, a 2014 study found that astmanephrine provides less bronchoprotection than albuterol and may be less effective in treating acute bronchospasm .

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were used until 2011 as a drug delivery propellant for many over-the-counter asthma inhalers, such as Primatene Mist and prescription inhalers. The Environmental Protection Agency has banned the use of CFCs in inhalers to lower ozone levels and cause less environmental damage. As a result, Primatene Mist was withdrawn from the market, but came back after replacing CFCs with hydrofluoroalkane.


Astmanephrine (raspinephrine) is a CFC-free asthma product that is currently available for use and acts as a bronchodilator . Relieves asthma symptoms by relaxing sore muscles and functionally expanding the airways in the lungs. You should not use Asthmanefrin if you have one of the following conditions :

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate.

Asthmanephrine is slightly different because it is not a traditional inhaler. In contrast, the EZ Breathe atomizer draws in a small amount of liquid and turns it into a fine mist that can be inhaled into the lungs. Once in the lungs, it acts as a bronchodilator, improving your symptoms.

The FDA advises that the side effects of this drug should be monitored, and if you are using it, you should report any reactions.

Contradictory opinions

Not all professionals believe that over-the-counter asthma inhalers, such as astmanephrine , should be available to consumers. In fact, organizations such as the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, the American Respiratory Association, the American Thoracic Society, and the National Association for the Medical Direction of Respiratory Care do not want over-the-counter inhalers to be included in treatment guidelines for asthma. They do not believe that OTC epinephrine medications are safe for asthma .

Get the word of drug information

You will need to decide for yourself whether this over-the-counter treatment is right for you. You may be attracted to the lower cost and no prescription required.

But this is not the same as prescription inhalers. Asthma can be a life-threatening condition and should be discussed with your healthcare provider. If you have any questions about whether this is appropriate, speak with your doctor.

An Asthmatic Physician's Discussion Guide

Get our printed guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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