You can still use an expired inhaler, but it's not an ideal treatment
- Inhalers expire after about a year.
- Expired inhalers are not dangerous to use, but they may be less effective, which may be dangerous in situations of an
- The expiration date is usually located on the packaging of your inhaler, so it's important to write it down on the inhaler itself so that you know when it expires.
- This article was medically reviewed by Osita Onugha, MD, thoracic surgeon and assistant professor of thoracic surgical oncology at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's
HealthCenter in Santa Monica, California.
Inhalers are crucial tools for people with lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some people use their inhaler on a daily basis while others may only need it for emergency relief, such as during an asthma attack.
Here's what you need to know about how long inhalers last and the safety of using an expired inhaler.
How long do inhalers last?An inhaler's expiration date is typically about one year after your prescription is filled, says Jonathan Parsons, MD, a pulmonologist and professor of Internal Medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.Advertisement
The expiration date of an inhaler refers to when the medicine inside is no longer fully effective. There are multiple types of inhaler medications including:
- Long term control medications, which are used daily to control asthma symptoms:
- Ciclesonide (Alvesco)
- Mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler)
- Quick relief or "rescue" medications, which are generally used to stop wheezing once it has already started:
Yes, you can still use an expired inhaler
In a situation where you need a rescue inhaler, it's better to use an expired inhaler than no inhaler at all, Parsons says. An expired inhaler will not harm you and cause adverse effects, but it may not provide you with the same amount of relief.Although the inhaler's expiration date is about one year after the purchase date, you'll likely run out of it before that time if you're prescribed it for daily use. On the other hand, if your inhaler is only for occasional or rescue use, like during an asthma attack, it might expire before you use up all the metered puffs.
Inhalers don't have chemicals that are going to be dangerous to you when they expire, it's more about the effectiveness. An inhaler that's expired will not do as good a job of helping you breathe as an inhaler that has not expired, but it can still be useful.Parsons says it's generally safe to use an inhaler beyond the expiration date, but you should be aware that it likely won't be as effective as before it expired. Plus, it's just good practice to stay on top of getting your refills in time.
How to tell if your inhaler is expiredWhen you first purchase your inhaler, always check the packaging for the expiration date. It will likely be located on the box or foil wrapping. Advertisement
Parsons says because the expiration date is usually on the box or packaging, and not the inhaler canister, tt's best to hold on to the packaging so you can easily reference the expiration date. Keep it with your other medications so you will know where to find it.
Additionally, some inhaler canisters might have a handy blank space for you to actually write the expiration date on the canister itself. Otherwise, you can also use a fine-tip permanent marker and write it somewhere on the canister.If you don't have the packaging and are unsure of the expiration date, there really aren't any ways to tell if it's expired. If you aren't sure when you got the inhaler, you can call up your pharmacy and they can check their records to determine when your prescription was filled and give you a rough idea of an expiration date. Advertisement
Aside from being aware of the expiration date, Parsons recommends storing your inhaler the proper way while not in use: in a clean (not dusty) place at room temperature (around 59 – 86° Fahrenheit). It should also always be stored with the cap on to keep dust and other debris out of the mouthpiece so it doesn't get clogged up.
What to do with an expired inhaler
Once you have a new inhaler, you shouldn't just throw your old inhaler away with your normal trash. According to the FDA, some inhalers can be dangerous if they are punctured or put in an incinerator, so it's best to call your local trash facility or pharmacy to ask what they recommend. It can vary based on where you live.You can also check handling instructions for disposing of your inhaler on the packaging. Advertisement
The bottom lineWhen in doubt, ask your doctor for a new prescription for a fresh inhaler, so you can be sure it's effective, and make sure to take note of the expiration date this time.
If you're experiencing an asthma attack or severe difficulty breathing and your expired inhaler is not helping you, Parsons says you should go to an urgent care center or emergency room to get the assistance that you need.
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