Inhalers boasting a dose counter could be the key to decreasing the 2.1 million emergency room visits due to asthma, according to a study presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

According to the study, adjusted incidence of emergency encounters for respiratory reasons was 55% lower among patients with an albuterol inhaler that had an integrated dose counter compared with those with no dose counter on their inhaler (rate 0.4% versus 0.9%, P<0.001).

Severe exacerbations were equally common in the two groups, though, suggesting that fewer trips to the hospital stemmed from cutting down on preventable emergencies.

“Dose counters help patients know if they are getting enough medication and warn if the inhaler is nearing empty, both of which can help reduce asthma attacks,” said allergist Allen Meadows, MD, ACAAI fellow and chair of the Public Education Committee.

Researchers with the study also note that physicians can write their prescriptions to specify that the inhaler be one with a dose counter, but patients would be wise to insist on it at the pharmacy.