Can You Buy Asthma Inhalers Online?

By Sarah Malka, MD
Medically reviewed
September 20, 2021

Asthma is one of the most common medical complaints in the United States.

More than 25 million people, including 6.1 million children, are diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives.

For some, asthma symptoms rarely occur and do not impact their quality of life. For others, asthma is debilitating. In fact, it’s a leading cause of doctor’s office and emergency department visits, particularly among children.

Fortunately, prescription medications and inhalers can safely and effectively manage asthma and improve quality of life.

And today you can get asthma inhalers without going to the doctor’s office; instead, you can order them online, saving you time. 

In this article, I’ll explain what asthma is, the different types of asthma inhalers, how to order asthma inhalers online, and what to be aware of if you decide to go the virtual route.

I’ll also share when it’s best to see a doctor about your asthma.

Refill your asthma prescription online today—for just $23

Get Started

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and restricts the ability to breathe.

It affects more than 260 million adults and children worldwide and is directly responsible for more than $50 billion in annual healthcare costs in the United States. 

When you have asthma, small airways in your lungs become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult to breathe.

In severe cases, the airways may produce mucus and the lung muscles may spasm and contract, making breathing even more challenging.

People with asthma can experience symptoms that are regular, intermittent, or chronic.

Some people may wheeze or have minor breathing problems a few times per week or only a few times per year.

For example, they may experience mild symptoms after exercise or when exposed to a trigger like an allergy or illness that causes their lungs to react.

Others with more severe cases may experience asthmatic episodes of significant shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and chest pain.

Those episodes, called asthma attacks, can be life-threatening and may require medical treatment.

Healthcare providers still don’t know exactly what causes asthma, though the disease does tend to run in families.

Some people develop asthma as children and “grow out of it” as they grow older. Others have life-long challenges with the disease, and others experience their first symptoms as adults. 

Factors that increase your risk of developing asthma include: 

  • Family history: If someone in your family has asthma, you are more likely to develop it too.
  • Allergies: Seasonal allergies, pet allergies, and food allergies may trigger asthma symptoms for those with allergic asthma.
  • Medical history: Being born premature or having lung conditions in childhood may be a risk for asthma later in life.
  • Environment: If you regularly inhale pollution, second-hand smoke, or other irritants, you are at greater risk of developing asthma
  • Occupation: If you work a job where you regularly inhale dust, gas, vapors, or other irritants, you may develop asthma.

Though there is no cure for asthma, you can manage the disease with the right treatments.

Monitoring your symptoms, avoiding environmental triggers, and using prescription inhalers or other asthma medications can safely and effectively improve your symptoms and quality of life.

Asthma Inhalers 

Asthma inhalers are devices that push aerosol medication from a canister directly into the lungs.

They are considered a first-line treatment for all types of asthma, from mild to severe.

Some people with more persistent symptoms may require a daily or twice-a-day inhaler medication, while those with intermittent or mild asthma can often manage their symptoms by using an inhaler as needed.

Three kinds of asthma inhalers exist. Using a spacer on any of the inhalers below helps deliver more medication into the lungs and makes the inhaler much more effective.

Spacer attachments are available for everyone from infants to adults. 

Reliever inhalers

Also called rescue inhalers or quick-relief inhalers, these contain bronchodilator medications (usually short-acting beta2-agonists) that immediately open up constricted airways so you can breathe more easily.

Quick-relief inhalers include:

  • Albuterol (ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA)
  • Levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA)

Some people experience side effects while using albuterol inhalers and other short-acting beta2-agonists, though most effects are generally mild.

Common side effects include: 

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or stomach upset
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Anxiety 
  • Trembling or shaking hands
  • Heart palpitations, fast heart rate, or irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle cramps

Preventive inhalers

Preventive or controller inhalers contain anti-inflammatory corticosteroids that, as the name implies, help prevent asthma attacks and improve lung health over time.

You take one or two puffs of the medication in the morning and evening every day, even when you are not sick or experiencing symptoms.

Preventive inhalers include:

  • Fluticasone (Flovent HFA)
  • Budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler)
  • Mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler)
  • Beclomethasone (Qvar RediHaler)
  • Ciclesonide (Alvesco)

Since most of these medications stay in the lungs and are not absorbed into the bloodstream, they don’t tend to cause the same side effects as oral corticosteroids and are generally considered safe for long-term use in all ages.

Still, like any medication, preventative inhalers can cause side effects: 

Combination inhalers

Some people need combination inhalers that offer short-term relief and long-term prevention to combat their asthma symptoms.

These inhalers contain a bronchodilator and a steroid and include: 

  • Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus)
  • Budesonide and formoterol (Symbicort)
  • Mometasone and formoterol (Dulera)
  • Fluticasone and vilanterol (Breo)

Get Asthma Inhalers Online

Asthma inhalers are available online, but only with a prescription. If you are experiencing asthma symptoms and believe you might benefit from an inhaler, make an appointment to see a healthcare provider.

An in-person exam is required for a new diagnosis of asthma or if you are experiencing shortness of breath or severe symptoms.

If your doctor determines that an asthma inhaler is appropriate for you, they will give you a prescription that you can fill at your local pharmacy or an online pharmacy. 

Risks of Purchasing Inhalers Online

If you plan to purchase any medication over the internet, it’s essential to ensure that your online pharmacy is reputable and safe. 

Buying inhalers from fake websites can be dangerous.

You may receive expired, contaminated, or counterfeit medications that can put your health at risk. You may also risk financial or personal information falling into the wrong hands.

Always check to make sure that any website you are purchasing from has: 

  • An address and telephone number in the United States
  • A pharmacist available to offer customer service and answer questions
  • A license from your state pharmacy board
  • And requires a prescription from a licenced prescriber to buy medication

Refill your asthma prescription online today—for just $23

Get Started

When to See a Healthcare Provider

With the right treatment plan, most people can manage their asthma.

If you are experiencing shortness of breath, wheezing or whistling as you breathe, or other symptoms related to breathing, or you feel weak or dizzy, make an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss whether an inhaler or another medication is right for you.

If you are experiencing symptoms for the first time or your symptoms worsen, call your medical provider right away.

If at any point you struggle to breathe, have difficulty speaking, or see your skin, lips, tongue, or face turning blue, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for immediate medical attention. 

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a prescription to purchase an inhaler?
Over-the-counter inhalers are available for purchase, but these do not contain the same medication as prescription inhalers and are not appropriate for treating most asthma. Asthma inhalers require a prescription from a doctor for purchase. If you are experiencing asthma symptoms and believe you might benefit from an inhaler or another treatment, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and whether the medication is appropriate for you.
Will OTC inhalers be covered by insurance?
Most asthma inhalers are not available over the counter. However, most insurance plans cover the cost of prescription medications, including inhalers. If you are concerned about the price of your inhaler prescription, talk to your prescriber about the generic version of your medication. You may also find that online pharmacies or grocery store pharmacies offer your drugs at a lower price point than traditional retail pharmacies do.
What is the fastest way to get an inhaler?
If you are experiencing mild asthma symptoms and believe you might benefit from an inhaler, make an appointment with a healthcare provider to determine if you have asthma and what treatment is right for you. If you are experiencing more severe asthma symptoms or shortness of breath, go to an urgent care clinic or ER right away. Once you have a prescription, you can order your inhaler from a reputable online pharmacy or neighborhood drug store.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Sarah Malka, MD

Dr. Sarah Malka is a board certified emergency medicine physician with K Health. She completed her residency at Harvard Medical School.