What to do when your medicine changes

Our four-step plan for getting the best from your new asthma medicine quickly, so you can lead a symptom-free life

"A change of medicine can feel like a bit of hassle, but the good news is that starting to take it means you’re on your way to getting your symptoms back under control," says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP.

"Following our simple tips will help make your medicines work better, so you'll see the results faster."

1. Make sure you're using your inhaler properly

Did you know even small mistakes, that most of us make without realising, can significantly reduce the amount of medicine that goes into your lungs so you don’t get the full benefit? Using your new inhaler correctly as prescribed means that the medicine will go into your airways where it’s needed, and stop it being wasted by ending up in your mouth or throat.

  • Find your new inhaler in our short videos so you can get to grips with your inhaler (and spacer if you have one)
Easyhaler Salbutamol

Improve your inhaler technique by following these simple tips

2. Make it easier to remember your new medicine

If you’ve been given a new preventer inhaler to improve your asthma symptoms, you’ll only get its full symptom-busting power if you take it as prescribed. 

Make it easier to remember by:

  • Link using your preventer inhaler to brushing your teeth or hair or putting on moisturiser. Then it’ll just be another easy thing you do each day, even if you’re half asleep.
  • Setting your phone for inhaler alerts. Pick an upbeat song to remind yourself how good you’ll feel once your symptoms are under control.
  • Checking if your medicine could be taken in one daily dose. Ask your GP whether this option could work for you.

Make it easier to find your new reliever if you need it:

  • Ideally, you need two relievers – one for the house, and one for your bag/jacket pocket, so you always have one with you in case of an emergency. 
  • Keep your ‘home’ reliever where you can see it – perhaps next to your house keys or on your bedside table. Keeping it in the same spot means you’re less likely to lose it.

Do you forget to take your medicines a lot? See our answers to common questions about changing asthma medicines.

3. Monitor your asthma while your new medicine starts to work

If you're using them right, asthma medicines are very safe and side effects are unusual. 

It can take 4-8 weeks for your symptoms to settle down. You should find that you're:

  • coughing/wheezing less
  • sleeping better
  • finding it easier to do your daily activities
  • feeling less breathless and tight chested
  • needing your reliever less.

Ask friends and family if they’ve noticed any changes, too.

See your GP or asthma nurse if you’re getting side effects, or if you find your symptoms getting worse. If you don't want to wait around for an appointment, you can always pop in to your local pharmacist for a chat – they'll be able to advise you on what to do next and can even help communicate with the surgery on your behalf. 

If you’re using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week, don't wait. Make an emergency appointment with your GP. 

4. Use these tips if you need to go back to your GP about your change of medicine 

"When I'm changing someone's medicines, it's important for me to know whether your medicine is working for you and suiting you and also whether the device suits you," says Dr Andy.

  • Keep a note of any symptoms you're getting – are they better or worse than before? 
  • Take along your inhalers so your GP or asthma nurse can advise you on getting your technique right and make sure you're getting the full dose of medicine into your lungs. 
  • Take along your peak flow diary – make sure you do some readings before you go, even if you don't take your peak flow regularly. 
  • Note down any side effects you've noticed from your new medicine
  • Get some more support, if you need it, by speaking to one of the Asthma UK nurses. 

Last updated December 2018

Next review due December 2021