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Inhalers & Spacers in schools: Everything you need to know

An introduction to asthma

More than one million children are affected by asthma in the UK.

The condition can be diagnosed in different ways, depending on the age of the child. Some tests may be carried out by a GP or asthma nurse, including a peak flow test, blood tests, and simple lung function tests.

Asthma can cause inflammation and narrowing of the small airways in the lungs, which may cause some scary symptoms for a child. These symptoms tend to be treated by a device called an inhaler, which will be prescribed by a GP or asthma nurse and should be easily accessible by an asthmatic child at all times.

Reliever Inhalers

Reliever inhalers tend to be blue and provide immediate relief in instances whereby the asthmatic person is experiencing symptoms. When administered correctly, the ‘blue’ inhalers relax the muscles around the airways and decrease the narrowing of the airways, thus providing immediate relief from the symptoms of asthma.

If an asthma attack occurs within a school, it is recommended that the blue inhaler is administered alongside a spacer.


There are a number of different types of preventer inhalers but they are often brown. A preventative inhaler prevents inflammation and swelling in the airways. The medicine is then able to reach the parts of the airways that is needs to get to in order to work.

If a child needs a preventer inhaler, their GP will prescribe a daily dosage and show them how to use a good inhaler technique. A good technique ensures that their airways will react less to asthma triggers, because their airways will be less sensitive.

Did you know all types of preventer inhalers contain a low dose of steroid medicine called corticosteroids?

Some examples of preventer treatment include:

  • Metered dose inhalers (MDIs) which give the medicine in a spray form (aerosol). This is the one you often use with a spacer

  • Breath actuated inhalers (BAIs) which automatically release a spray of medicine when you begin to inhale (breathe in)

  • Dry powder inhalers (DPIs) which give the medicine in a dry powder instead of a spray.


A spacer is a device that tends to be shaped like a tube and is designed to make it easier for asthma patients to inhale their medicine from metered dose inhalers (puffer devices).

Spacers can be used for both relievers and preventers in order to help the medicine go straight to the lungs. Recommended by healthcare professionals, especially for the use of children, spacers come in different types and designs to suit individuals.

Non-disposable spacers should be cleaned before use and then every four weeks.

In the event of an emergency at your school, a spacer must always be used with the reliever medicine to ensure that the medicine reaches the lungs quickly.


As you can see, there are multiple ways to treat asthma. Though asthma can happen at anytime, the condition can be exacerbated by a range of triggers that can be found in school; designated members of school staff should be trained in how to assist a child who needs an inhaler.

Does your school require emergency medicine incase of an asthma attack? Find out more about the ARK Asthma Rescue Kit here.

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