Atrovent inhaler warning…

I could have died today. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Not at all.

On the way out to the pub, I grabbed a new batch of inhalers – Clenil Modulite, Serevent, and Atrovent – I have COPD.

At 13.00 my alarm to take my inhalers went off (if you take your meds by the clock – instead of just when you remember them – they’re far more effective).

I take my Atrovent inhaler last and, because its poor design means you can’t draw air through it, I tend to squirt it into my mouth as I inhale sharply (at home I use a spacer device). I forgot that, though, and sucked at it – and inhaled a foreign body. And immediately began to choke.

I was coughing violently and uncontrollably, and I didn’t dare breathe in, for fear I’d draw whatever it was deeper into my airway.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally expelled it, seconds before, it felt, I would have passed out. And if I had passed out, I’d have reflexively inhaled, and drawn the object deeper into my lungs, and I’d be in hospital, not at home typing this.

When I’d recovered enough to look at what I’d got, it turned out to be a small piece of foam rubber, about a ¼ of an inch across, plus a sliver of cardboard. The inhaler was fresh from its box, and I make a point of keeping the pocket in which I carry my inhalers scrupulously clean**, so there is only one possible conclusion.

That conclusion is that the inhaler was contaminated at the factory. And believe me, if I could prove that, this would be a solicitor’s letter to Boehringer Ingelheim (Atrovent’s makers), not a pissed-off blog post.

With hind-sight (it’s a wonderful thing), I should have kept the foreign body and sent to it to Boehringer Ingleheim for them to locate the glitch in their system (assuming they’re not employing a psycho who’s randomly putting crap in inhalers, which is by no means impossible).

So, if you use an Atrovent inhaler, always make a point, when it’s fresh out of the box, of pulling out the canister and ensuring there’s nothing lurking in the mouthpiece than shouldn’t be. Because if it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

In fact, do ensure you keep all your inhalers clean at all times.

**That’s because one day, having slogged to the top of the steps at the  Sacré-Cœur basilica, in Paris, a suck on my Ventolin inhaler got me a ball of pocket fluff, since when I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure it didn’t happen again.

7 thoughts on “Atrovent inhaler warning…

  1. Sorry to hear about your recent scare.
    Sounds like it was something which happened at the production/packaging stage.
    Quite unusual- you could have sued and got compensayshun!

    Isn’t it awful the way being without a reliever when you’re out can induce a sense of panic? It’s a long term asthmatic thing.
    I don’t know if I said but I was diagnosed with COPD about a month ago, after 47 years with simple old asthma.
    Kinda depressing really.
    The Nurse in the asthma clinic said my lungs were functioning at the level of a ninety year old..
    (sob! and I’m only 63!!)
    I don’t do peak flows any more- it’s too depressing.
    It has spurred me to mount my trusty elliptical cycle thing again (ooh ahh missus!)
    I am doing 20 minutes a day. The longest I can pedal is just over a minute then I rest and get my breath back.

    I watch DVDs on a laptop while I’m torturing myself.
    It takes me about an hour to do the twenty minutes.
    If I’m watching something fast paced like the”Bourne Ultimatum” it might only take me 59 minutes!!

    Whilst mulling over this latest news I found a very good website which you might know.
    It’s called
    I haven’t done a profile yet, but it seems to be a very practical website for COPDers and other breathing related probs.
    Best wishes
    John Winlow

    • Loads of living-with-COPD stuff here

      If I could have proved the crap in my inhaler came with it, and not from my pocket, I certainly would be suing. Unfortunately, knowing that’s so isn’t proof. I’m sure as hell going to check every new inhaler carefully, though.

      I wouldn’t worry about the lungs of a 90-year-old thing (when I was 40 the figure trotted out was 80-year-old); it’s just a simple way of telling you your lungs are screwed without getting involved in technical explanations. It doesn’t really mean you actually have the lungs equivalent to those of a 90-year-old.


  2. Ron,
    I just read a bit more of you personal info on the website.
    My wife and I used to run a guesthouse in Keswick, and I worked in a children’s home down in Silverdale.
    You have been through the wars in your life time!

    Interesting you mention supplements.
    I take quite a variety. Some I think help: others I am not sure.
    I have started taking Bromelain. It’s supposed to help reduce inflammation.
    (I have a snapped biceps tendon, and a damaged achilles tendon. Both may be a result of Prednisolone over the years. Evidently it weakens body tissue.)
    I avoid painkillers as much as possible, although in your case I can certainly understand you need them.
    Will try sending you some photos
    (oh no! gulps Ron..)
    I am not very good with computers, and I struggle with Windows 7 after Windows XP.
    I especially miss Outlook Express 6.
    I have tried Mozilla Thunderbird, Googlemail and
    Windows Livemail.
    I am persevering with Mozilla Firefox. I really miss the simplicity of OE6, and all these add-ons and “personalised whatsits” simply confuse me.


    • Hi John,

      Most of the add-ons for Firefox can be safely ignored, and it really is the best browser by some margin. All you really need is Addblock Pro (which filters out adverts online), and if you do much typing online (though it sounds as if maybe not), then the British English dictionary cum spellchecker is worthwhile, and that’s all you really need.

      IE6, of course, was years out of date, and any change is going to mean a learning curve, even an up to date version of IE (IE8), is very similar to Firefox. Firefox has a section for people moving over from IE, it’s in Help

      Thunderbird is best free app for email. Webmail is NOT good, even though it’s absurdly popular. Email should be held on your computer, not somewhere in the depths of the Web where you have no control over it. I know that’s an unpopular view these days, but too bad – at least I know where my email is, and that no-one can access it but me.

      And the thing about Outlook Express is that while it was very easy to use, it was also extremely crappy (Outlook, on the other hand, is about as good as it gets, but you need to buy a copy of Office to get it, which is expensive – though if you shop around online you may be able to pick up a copy of Office 2003 cheaply)

      I’m upgrading to Win7 at the weekend. It’s quite a lot different to XP, but at heart it’s easier to use. If you’re having problems, get a copy of Windows 7 for Dummies book, and you won’t go wrong.

      Prednisolone – even inhaled steroids – screws up your body. Buggers make you fat too! Bromelain won’t help a snapped tendon – that needs surgery.

      If you need an anti-inflammatory try Ibuprofen (or something stronger from your GP; I take Naproxen). If you’re still taking Prednisolone, though, it’ll provide all the anti-inflammatory action you need.


  3. Ron,
    I am going to give Thunderbird another go.
    I don’t like the idea of my emails being kept in a central location. I have Norton 360 and they keep on at me to back up files, but I won’t as they say the files are kept in the USA.
    I hate this trend towards centralisation.
    (Our governments have often illustrated the folly of this as they have a nasty habit of leaving sensitive info on trains etc.)

    I have Windows7 for the over 50’s; just haven’t got round to using it yet.
    What I don’t like/understand about Windows 7 is if you go into for example “Pictures” or “Documents”
    (I’ve just tried to use the snipping tool to cut out the window and send it to you, but it won’t do it)
    down the left hand side it has:-
    Recent places




    etc etc.
    You might think it is easy, I just find it unecessarily complicated.
    As a result I have yet to transfer my pictures from XP onto the new computer. I tried it once, and the programme comes up with so many alternatives, using non XP titles and terms, that I gave up.
    Apart from the obvious (the man’s a fool!) have you any suggestions?

    • Windows 7 for the over 50s is bloody patronising! How you use a computer is the same whether you’re 15 or 50, and these age-related books really piss me off. The assumption is that old people are thick. OK, some are, but they were probably thick when they were young, too!


      The best books for computers are the For Dummies series. Try Windows 7 For Dummies. 18 years ago I bought Windows 3.1 For Dummies – and never looked back!

      You’ve had that list down the left-hand side of folders for several Windows versions now (95 onwards, if memory serves, or maybe 98), it’s just a menu of links to take you somewhere else of for for functions you may want to perform. Just ignore them if all you’re doing is importing a picture**. It was less extensive in XP than it is in 7, that’s all. The left-hand side of folders – any folders – will always offer you a menu.

      Copying and pasting the image from wherever it’s backed up to where you want it in 7 is probably the simplest way of transferring pics. Just right-click the image, click Copy. Go to the folder, right-click, and click Paste, and it’ll drop the image into the folder without any grief. If it’s a big image, it may take a few seconds, in which case a progress bar may be displayed. It’s as easy as that.

      And you can do that with any file, not just pictures.

      I tried it once, and the programme comes up with so many alternatives, using non XP titles and terms, that I gave up.

      If you have a picture from XP called, let’s say, Birds in the Park.jpeg (or.jpg) then there’s no reason why you can’t call it that in 7. Just ignore the options and stick with the original title.

      A computer is only a tool, YOU tell IT what to do – it doesn’t get to tell you.


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