I sometimes jokingly claim that Im a hopeless Albuter-holic, because Ive probably inhaled more bronchodilators (asthma medicine) than any living person. Well, after doing the math, that claim might not be as far fetched as it sounds.
When I first wrote about this back in 2008, I had calculated that I inhaled the equivalent of a quarter million puffs of Albuterol. Well, its now 13 years later and while a lot has changed in that time, one thing that hasn’t…. my insatiable consumption of inhaled bronchodilators.
With a lot of extra time on my hands and no place to go ( thank you pandemic), I thought it might be a fun diversion to figure out how much Albuterol I’ve inhaled into my lungs over the course of my lifetime. For the sake of simplicity, and the fact that Albuterol has only been around for about 37 years, I decided to include ALL the inhaled bronchodilator medication that Ive taken since the age of 6, which is as far back as I can accurately track. This would include Isoetharine,(aka Bronksol,the precursor to Albuterol), Primatine mist and other inhalable bronchodilators. The results of course, are a rough estimate, but here goes.
Assuming that Ive been using inhalers for appx 60 years, and assuming that I was taking only half the recommended dose of (1-2 puffs 4 x day) for 45 of those years, and then took 1.5 times the recommended dose during the past 15 years because of my worsening symptoms, that works out to a total 131,400 hits off the inhalers.
The math….. ( 4 puffs per day x 365 days x 45 years + 12 puffs per day x 365 days x 15 years= 131, 400 puffs)
But wait, those are just the hits from inhalers. Now, lets add-in all the Albuterol Ive inhaled in the liquid form via a nebulizer and then we’ll convert that number into the equivalent number of inhaler puffs. ( Yes, there’s a formula for for that). For calculation purposes, I’ll use the generally accepted conversion formula, of one unit dose of Albuterol solution, equaling 4 puffs of Albuterol from an inhaler taken with a spacer(without a spacer, it would be more like 8 puffs). And since I’ve been taking neb treatments 4 times per day on a regular basis for about 30 years, that would equate to a whopping 87,600 inhaler puffs!
The math. (1 neb treatment = 4 puffs albuterol x 6 times per day x 365 days x 30 years = 262,800 puffs!)
But we’re not done yet. Lets not forget about all the continuous nebs Ive been on while hospitalized during those same 30 years. I’ll use a conservative figure of 2 hospitalizations per year and a figure of 72 hours of continuous nebs per hospitalization. I’ll also calculate the average dose of Albuterol at 10 mg/hr (very conservative, as I’m usually on 15 mg or more per hour). We’ll also assume that we are using the standard 5% solution.
The math…… ( 10mg per hour of continuously nebulized albuterol, is the equivalent of taking 144 individual neb treatments in a 72 hour period. 144 neb treatments x twice a year = 288 neb treatments x 30 years = 8640 neb treatments. 8640 neb treatments is the equivalent of 34,560 puffs from an inhaler!)
So, we have, 131,400 + 262,800 + 11,520 for grand total of 405,720 hits off an inhaler!
Just to put this into perspective, there are about 200 actuations (puffs) in a single Albuterol inhaler. This means Ive gone through the equivalent of appx 2,028 inhalers since age 6. That’s about 1.2 inhalers very 2 weeks over the course of my entire life. That’s a lot of Albuterol in my system, it’s amazing I don’t glow in the dark or something. Wish I had a dollar for every puff!