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Asthma Inhalers Make an Environmental Shift

Health Notes Archives - Click HereBy Christina Elston

The fast-relief asthma inhalers that help millions of American children breathe easier also contain clorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are believed to contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. And as they are phased out for environmental reasons, families will have to make some adjustments.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all CFC inhalers to be phased out by Dec. 31, 2008. The environmentally friendly alternative, which uses hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) as a propellant, contains exactly the same medication. But there are some key differences, according to Norman Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. The taste with CFC-free inhalers will be different, and the mist is less forceful, Edelman says. Because this means more mist gets into the lungs, it could have benefits for kids who use spacers - which are chambers fitted to inhalers to increase their effectiveness.

"Less mist will be lost in the mouth and throat, perhaps making spacers less necessary for some older kids," says Edelman. "Older kids who like to, and should, carry their inhalers with them will appreciate this."

A bigger difference for some families will be the price of the new inhalers, which will cost $30 to $60 versus $5 to $25 for generic CFC inhalers. The cost will be felt most by those without health insurance, but Edelman speculates that the price will likely fall as more people switch to HFA inhalers. Meanwhile, the American Lung Association (ALA) has information about assistance programs and a coupon offer to help families pay for their prescriptions. Information is available by calling 800-LUNG-USA and pressing "2" to speak to a nurse or respiratory therapist.

The ALA offers more information about the switch to CFC-free inhalers online at www.lungusa.org/cfcfree.

Christina Elston is a senior editor and health writer for Dominion Parenting Media.

Posted June 2007

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