If you have asthma, you’re never far from your inhaler – an important ally in your asthma treatment. Whether you use a corticosteroid to prevent attacks or just carry a beta-2 agonist ‘rescuer’ in case of need, chances are your inhalers are a source of reassurance and comfort. However, inhalers can cause Dry Mouth – a condition that can be an unwelcome side effect of asthma therapy. Luckily, remedies are available to prevent and/or ease the symptoms and let you get on with your life.
Asthma inhaler? Dry Mouth?
How exactly do your asthma inhalers cause Dry Mouth? In two ways. Prolonged use of a rescue inhaler, or a beta-2 agonist, has been shown to repress salivary glands, reducing saliva production by around 30%. Corticosteroid inhalers, commonly used to prevent asthma attacks, have a more topical effect on your mouth, as only around 15% of each dose reaches the lungs. Unfortunately, this means the rest lingers on your oral tissues and can interfere with your sense of taste and the way saliva moves around your mouth.
We know that using an asthma inhaler can lead to a dry mouth, but what does that really mean? Dry Mouth, also known as Xerostomia, doesn’t just mean you need to drink more water (although that can help). It happens when your mouth doesn’t produce as much saliva as it should. This leads to uncomfortable symptoms such as difficulty in speaking or swallowing, changes in the way you taste, bad breath and soreness in your mouth. In extreme cases, it can cause mouth ulcers and oral fissures.Dry Mouth is more common than you might think and can affect more than just your oral health. A dry mouth can make eating dry food more difficult. This means your diet may suffer, leading to potential digestive problems, lack of energy and weight management issues. Because Dry Mouth can make speaking more difficult, it can affect your social life and knock your confidence. At night, having a dry mouth can also disturb your sleep, as you might find yourself waking repeatedly to sip water.
How to prevent Dry Mouth if you use asthma inhalers
Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to prevent your asthma inhalers from causing your mouth to dry out. This can be achieved with good oral hygiene, maintenance of your inhalers and oral moisturizing products if needed.
- Start by making sure you’re keeping your inhalers clean and dry. It’s recommended that you follow the manufacturer or prescribed directions for inhaler maintenance.
- If recommended by your healthcare provider, use a spacing device with your inhalers. This could help more of your inhaled medication get into your lungs, so less stays in your mouth.
- Maintain excellent oral hygiene, including brushing twice daily and flossing once a day. Reduced saliva could mean your mouth is more vulnerable to plaque and gum disease.
- Gargle with water or a moisturizing oral rinse after using your inhaler. You can also use a special spray and/or lozenges to keep your mouth moist throughout the day and night.
Your asthma inhaler is an important part of your asthma therapy, and it can even save your life. Being aware of its side effects, and how you can prevent them, can ensure you get the maximum benefit from your asthma treatment.