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What You Need to Know About Primatene Mist

By Dr. Kelly Maples, Asthma, Allergy and Immunology at CHKD

Primatene Mist, an inhaler containing racemic epinephrine, and the only over-the-counter reliever medication for mild asthma, will be back on the shelves next year – but not without concern from doctors.

The inhaler was removed from the market in 2011 because it contained chlorofluorocarbons, chemical compounds that are harmful to the environment. Now, Primatene has a new formula that’s safer for the environment and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but some medical professionals still recommend avoiding it.

Primatene Mist’s active ingredient, racemic epinephrine, is not a recommended asthma treatment under the National Institute of Health’s Guidelines and Management of Asthma.

According to the Allergy and Asthma Network, using Primatene Mist puts asthma patients at risk for a more serious flare-up. Some experts also say the newly formulated inhaler only masks symptoms rather than treat the condition. Primatene mist does not treat the cause of asthma, which is inflammation.

In addition, experts are concerned that patients may attempt to replace or supplement their rescue inhaler and/or daily preventative medications with Primatene Mist because it’s typically cheaper than prescription inhalers and there’s no need to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a prescription.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) reminds asthma patients to stick to their current treatment plan. “Asthma is not a ‘do-it-yourself’ disease that you can manage on your own with OTC medications,” says Dr. Bradley Chipps, ACAAI president. “Anyone who has asthma should be working with an allergist to make sure they are on the appropriate medication to control their disease. People shouldn’t go off their regular prescription medication to start taking Primatene Mist instead. That could prove very dangerous.” 

If your child has asthma, talk to your allergist to make sure you understand your treatment plan, and stick with your prescribed medication.

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About Children's  Specialty Group Children's Specialty Group is the only pediatric multi-specialty practice serving southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The physicians of Children's Specialty Group base their practices at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and serve as faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Learn more about our specialists here.