When to Replace or Refill Your Child's Asthma Equipment or Medication

When to replace asthma treatment equipment

When you get new equipment, keep the instruction booklet. If your child uses a nebulizer and air compressor, make sure you also keep the phone number of the company that supplied the equipment. The manufacturers of any piece of equipment will include information about how long it should last.

You need to know if your child's nebulizer tubing and medicine cup are disposable or re-usable and how long you can use them. Follow the instructions to clean and disinfect the nebulizer. And remember: if you don't follow the manufacturer's instruction regarding maintenance and replacement of parts, it will affect the performance of the machine and the treatment your child receives.

A spacer should last at least one year and maybe longer if it is cleaned properly, is not cracked or otherwise damaged, and the one-way valve remains intact. All spacers come with instructions how to clean them properly. If they are not cleaned properly it will affect their performance.

To replace equipment, you will need a prescription. In order for the equipment to be covered by insurance, make sure that you order from a pharmacy or equipment company that has a contract with your child's insurance provider.

When to replace asthma medications

Because different medicines are produced by different manufacturers, it's important that you are familiar with your own child's medicines. The newer, dry-powder inhalers have a dose counter or indicator to let you know when they need to be refilled.

The best way to know when other inhalers are running out is to count puffs:

  • Flovent inhalers come with 120 "actuations," or puffs of medicine. The recommended dose is two puffs twice a day, which equals four puffs a day total.  If there are 120 puffs in the canister and you divide 120 by four, the inhaler should last thirty days. After thirty days, it's time to replace the inhaler. Even though you may still feel liquid in the canister and you may see liquid spray out, the medicine is gone and the liquid is the leftover propellant and preservative.
  • Most albuterol inhalers come with 200 puffs of medicine or 100 (two-puff) doses. The usual dose of albuterol is two puffs as needed. If a child's asthma is under control, he should only be using albuterol before exercise and on as-needed basis, twice a week or less often. The best way to know when your child's albuterol is running out is to count puffs. For example, if a child takes a two puff dose of albuterol once a week before gym class, another two-puff dose once a week before soccer, and two puffs twice a week for symptoms, that equals four (two-puff) doses for a total of eight puffs a week, and the albuterol inhaler should last 25 weeks (six months).

If you are unsure about how best to keep track of when to refill your child's inhalers, talk to your pharmacist who can instruct you about when to get refills.