Are Asthma Inhalers Available Over the Counter?

Are Asthma Inhalers Available Over the Counter?
Published : Apr 16, 2024
Last Updated : Apr 16, 2024

Are you an asthma patient? If yes, you have surely heard of inhalers. Inhalers are small devices that push medicines directly to the lungs.

Inhalers help treat medical conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma symptoms.

Now, the thing to decide is whether inhalers are available over the counter. Yes, Asthma inhalers are available OTC. The most popular medicine used in inhalers is Albuterol, which is available with a prescription only.

Here, you will get all the information about the over-the-counter inhalers. Stay tuned to learn more details.

Over-the-counter Vs Prescription Inhalers

A doctor's prescription is required to buy prescription inhalers, but it is not mandatory to buy OTC inhalers.

You can buy OTC inhalers from any medical store nearby. Severe asthma cases require prescription inhalers, while OTC inhalers can ease mild symptoms.

Are Inhalers Available OTC?

Yes, there are a few over-the-counter inhalers available. The only thing is that OTC inhalers don't contain the same medicines as prescription inhalers.

OTC inhalers do not treat all types of asthma. Thus, before using such inhalers, consult your healthcare provider.

Inhalers That Are Available Over the Counter

Not all, but few inhalers can be purchased without prescription, and that's called OTC inhalers. Here are the three most used OTC inhalers.

Primatene Mist

Epinephrine is the active ingredient in Primatene Mist, which belongs to the medicine class of an adrenergic receptor agonist.

Adrenergic receptors are available in the body that help regulate breathing and proper blood pressure.

The primary ingredient of Primatene Mist attaches to the adrenergic receptors in the lungs. It makes the airways in the lungs open up.

Primatene Mist allows one to breathe easily. However, it is best to use It only for a short time. Children under 12 shouldn't use it.

Epinephrine inhalers are only used to treat asthma, but not COPD. Take 1-2 puffs every 4 hours. Use at most eight puffs of Primatene Mist a day.

Vicks Sinus Inhaler

Vicks sinus inhalers are different types of inhalers. This OTC inhaler helps provide warm steam to the nose and mouth, making breathing easy.

Vick's sinus inhaler is not an inhaler but a handheld humidifier. It helps treat a stuffy nose and break up mucus.

It is the best medicine-free treatment for breathing easily. A Vicks Vapo Pad is put inside before breathing.


The primary ingredient found in Asthmanefrin is Racepinephrine. Ingredients like racepinephrine are similar to epinephrine.

As an OTC inhaler, Asthmanefrin is a substitute for Primatene Mist but not the generic version of Primatene Mist.

This OTC inhaler helps treat asthma symptoms. Children over four can use an Asthmanefrin inhaler. Take one to three puffs every three hours.

But take at most 12 puffs in a day. After using Asthmanefrin, it starts affecting in just 20-30 minutes.

Which OTC inhaler is best?

Primatene Mist is considered the best OTC inhaler. While Asthmanefrin is just the substitute for Primatene Mist, so it works well.

Both provide the same effect, so it's challenging to decide on the best OTC inhaler. It depends on a person's condition and what's best for them.

Vicks sinus inhalers are best for mild cough and mucus. However, they may not work for asthma symptoms.

If you want a natural cold and flu treatment, Vicks inhaler is the best.

Side effects of using OTC inhalers

Using OTC inhalers may cause few side effects. The side effects OTC inhalers may cause are:

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nervousness

  • Sore throat

  • Sleeping trouble

  • Nausea

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Shakiness

Stop using an OTC inhaler and inform your healthcare provider if you see any side effects.

Precautions while using OTC inhalers

If you use an over-the-counter asthma inhaler, always consider these precautions.

Verify your inhaler from an experienced doctor before using any asthma inhalers, even if it's OTC.

Avoid using Asthmanefrin if you are already using a Monoamine oxidase inhibitor.

If you observe any side effects from using OTC inhalers, discontinue use and discuss the matter with a healthcare professional.

Don't replace prescription inhalers with OTC inhalers. Prescription inhalers are much more effective than OTC inhalers.

OTC inhalers may interact with other medicines you take. It mainly interacts with stimulants. Thus, discuss with your doctor if you are using stimulants.

Otc inhalers should be taken in a limited quantity as advised. Take the exact amount of puffs as asked. Primatene Mist should be taken only eight puffs a day, while Asthmanefrin should be taken only 12 puffs a day.


By now, it's clear that inhalers are available over the counter. The three inhaler types you can buy without a prescription are discussed here.

OTC inhalers are less effective than prescription inhalers. You may use these inhalers for mild asthma symptoms, but they are not used to treat COPD.

If you have severe symptoms, don't use any OTC inhaler. Visit a healthcare provider and get a high-dose inhaler prescribed.


Is it safe to use over-the-counter asthma inhalers?

Yes, it is safe to use over-the-counter inhalers. However, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only Primatene Mist.

So, it's advised to use Primatene Mist only for better safety if you are using an OTC inhaler.

What are the costs for over-the-counter inhalers?

The actual cost of the counter inhaler varies. Primatene Mist may cost between $25 and $48.

While Asthmanefrin costs around $30 to $60, Vicks Sinus inhalers are available for around $40.

Where are the over-the-counter inhalers available?

OTC inhalers are available at all pharmacies or drug stores and at online pharmacy stores.