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Advair for COPD: A guide

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What is it?How to use itEffectivenessSummary
Advair is a prescription medication used for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People usually take it twice per day using an inhaler.
Medically reviewed by Philip Ngo, PharmD
Updated on January 4, 2024

COPD is a common type of lung disease that causes the restriction of airflow and breathing issues. People may sometimes refer to COPD as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, which are two types of COPD. People with COPD experience lung damage and phlegm clogging in their airways.

COPD is more common in people who smoke or who live in areas with a lot of air pollution. People with COPD also have a higher risk of developing other health conditions.

There‘s no cure for COPD. But medications such as Advair, alongside lifestyle measures like quitting smoking (if applicable), can help slow the progression of the illness and prevent severe complications.

What is Advair?

An Advair Diskus inhaler on a pink background, used for COPD.
Photography by OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

Advair is a prescription medication used to treat COPD and asthma. This drug comes in the form of an inhalation powder that people need to inhale orally. Advair contains two active drugs: a corticosteroid called fluticasone propionate and a long-acting beta2-agonist (LABA) called salmeterol.

Fluticasone can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the lungs, decreasing swelling and making it easier to breathe, while salmeterol relaxes the muscles in the lungs.

Advair has two different versions: Advair Diskus and Advair HFA.

The first one is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating COPD and lowering its flare-ups. Advair Diskus comes in different dosages that doctors prescribe to people depending on several health factors and the severity of their COPD symptoms. However, Advair HFA is not FDA-approved for COPD.

Doctors typically prescribe Advair for maintenance treatment of COPD and to reduce the frequency of flare-ups people with this condition may experience.

Advair Diskus comes in different strengths:

  • 100/50 strength: 100 micrograms (mcg) of fluticasone propionate and 50 mcg of salmeterol per puff
  • 250/50 strength: 250 mcg of fluticasone propionate and 50 mcg of salmeterol in each puff
  • 500/50 strength: 500 mcg of fluticasone propionate and 50 mcg of salmeterol per puff

Advair can help manage emphysema, a type of COPD that causes damage to the walls between the air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. Emphysema makes it difficult to breathe air out of the lungs as it lowers the typical elasticity of the alveoli.

Advair can also reduce the swelling in the airways that people with chronic bronchitis may experience. This swelling causes the narrowing of the bronchial tubes that lead air into the lungs, making it difficult to breathe in the oxygen that the body needs.

Note that Advair is not a rescue inhaler, which means it can’t relieve sudden flare-ups or attacks of symptoms. It’s used for the management and prevention of symptoms and is used on a regular basis, whereas rescue inhalers are used as needed.

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How to use it

To use Advair Diskus, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Hold the inhaler in your hand and put your thumb into the thumb grip.
  2. Push the grip as far away from you as you can until the mouthpiece appears and snaps into place.
  3. With the mouthpiece facing you, hold the inhaler flat.
  4. Push the lever away from the mouthpiece until it clicks.
  5. Breathe out as long as you can.
  6. Place your lips on the mouthpiece and breathe in as quickly and deeply as possible while keeping your mouth around the mouthpiece.
  7. Remove the inhaler from your mouth and hold your breath for about 10 seconds.
  8. Close the inhaler.
  9. Rinse your mouth with water. Do not swallow the water.
  10. Check the number of remaining Advair doses in your inhaler by checking its counter. If the number showing on the counter is 5 or lower, consider buying the refill, as you do not have many doses left in the inhaler. Each inhaler contains 60 doses of Advair.

Unlike other inhalers, you don’t need to shake the inhaler before using it. Note that Advair Diskus inhalers only last for 1 month after opening.

You should always follow the doctor’s recommendations when using this medication. If you have any concerns or questions about how to use your Advair Diskus, you may contact a healthcare professional.

People typically use Advair twice daily, taking one dose of the drug roughly every 12 hours. You should always rinse your mouth after each dose of Advair. This can help lower the risk of developing fungal infections in the mouth and throat.

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Side effects

Advair can cause side effects that can vary from mild to serious. The more common side effects may include:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • strained or hoarse voice
  • throat irritation
  • bone or muscle pain
  • fungal throat or mouth infection (thrush)
  • upper respiratory infections, such as sinusitis or the common cold

These symptoms typically go away within a couple of days or a few weeks. But if your symptoms worsen or do not improve, you should speak with a doctor.

The serious side effects Advair can cause may include:

  • reduced adrenal gland function, causing symptoms such as:
    • chronic fatigue
    • low blood sugar
    • weakness
  • unexpected tightening of the airways
  • eye problems, such as glaucoma and cataracts
  • decreased bone density
  • pneumonia
  • serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

If you experience any difficulties breathing or any symptoms of anaphylaxis, you must immediately seek medical attention. Anaphylaxis is a life threatening condition caused by an allergic reaction. The symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

  • swelling in the limbs, eyes, or lips
  • wheezing
  • abdominal pain
  • lightheadedness and faint
  • loss of consciousness
  • rapid heart rate
  • throat or tongue swelling
  • itchy skin or skin rash

Effectiveness

Advair Diskus is effective in treating and managing COPD. Clinical studies found that people who used this medication for 3 years had 9% fewer moderate to severe flare-ups per year compared to those who only took fluticasone propionate and 12.2% compared to people who took salmeterol alone.

Advair Diskus also lowered the frequency of moderate to severe COPD flare-ups by 25.1% per year compared to people who took a placebo.

Summary

Advair is a prescription medication for treating and managing COPD. This drug comes in the form of an oral powder that people need to inhale using an inhaler. Advair contains two active drugs called fluticasone propionate and salmeterol.

Advair is particularly effective for COPD, but it can cause several side effects, including oral fungal infections, throat irritation, and nausea. You should always follow the doctor’s recommendations about when and how to take Advair. Typically, people take 2 doses of Advair per day, waiting roughly 12 hours between each dose.

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