Corn Free Asthma Treatment

What’s corny about asthma inhalers?

The propellant in modern HFA puffer-style inhalers almost always contains ethanol from corn.

There are several steroid or combination steroid-and-topical-anti inflammatory diskus inhalers that don’t use a propellant at all, but rather contain dry powder that you use the power of your inhaled breath to pull into yoyur lungs. Some preventative diskus inhalers are: Advair Diskus, Asmanex, and Flovent Diskus.

Note that so far all diskus inhalers contain lactose, so the severely dairy allergic are out of luck here.

However steroid inhalers are only useful for preventing an asthma attack.. they won’t treat one that is already happening.

What do I do if I’m already having an attack?

Your best bet would be the Ventolin brand HFA inhaler. It contains contains albuterol sulfate, but the propellant is not corn ethanol, it’s tetrafluoroethane (HFA 134a). The Xopenex HFA inhaler also uses this propellant but contains other exipients such as oleic acid and dehydrated alcohol which is most likely from corn. Ventolin has no other ingredients. I use the Ventolin HFA and sometimes I react to it just a little, so I don’t think it’s entirely corn free, but so far the benefit has outweighed the negative outcomes. Other inhalers including the popular ProAir HFA made my throat close.

Update March 2016: I’ve just discovered that ProAir is now making a non propellant albuterol inhaler that works like the steroid inhalers mentioned above. The only ingredients are the albuterol and lactose: ProAir Respiclick

If you can’t tolerate that, your best option is to get a nebulizer, which is a device that does the propelling for you. Then you just put the powdered drug which can be compounded corn free into the chamber and get the medication delivered. (Some nebulizer powders may be corn free off-the-shelf, check inactive ingredients.) There are pocket nebulizers for carrying with you however they are still somewhat bulky.

7 thoughts on “Corn Free Asthma Treatment

  1. Thanks for leaving this information public. I’m looking for corn-free inhaler options today and google found this entry. Very helpful.

  2. You mentioned HFA as a propellant! Have you ever researched Flovent ? Im having a hard time finding out what exactly is in the HFA as I am Allergic to corn , wheat, gluten, nuts , dairy , eggs and nuts! If you have this information please reply. Ive just been diagnosed with allergy induced asthma and my choices for medications are limited for both allergies and asthma ! Thank you
    Carole D

    1. Hey there! So I hadn’t researched Flovent until you asked, just assumed it was corny!

      HFA 134a is what the Ventolin brand inhaler that I and many others do well with uses for a propellant. I took a look at Flovent’s package insert ( and it appears that the only ingredients in the inhaler are similar to ventolin: the active ingredient and the HFA 134a. If that is the case, it could be a good bet to try!

      I don’t know for sure that it will be safe for you. I made a post in the Facebook Corn Allergy and Intolerance group I’m a member of to see if there are any reactions reported.

      Regarding what is actually “in” HFA, that depends on which HFA. HFA 134a is 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane. Here’s how I research this stuff to begin with. I start with wikipedia, to be honest. I do check my references after that point if I’m going to make a blog post on it to make sure I’m not reading something incorrect, but the wiki-research process gives a good, fast overview.

      I start here with HFA 134a:,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane. I always look for the “production” or “preparation” section first. I see that “Tetrafluoroethane is typically made by reacting trichloroethylene with hydrogen fluoride.”

      Okay I already kind of know that hydrogen fluoride is not corny because hydrogen and fluoride are both elements, meaning they would not have been derived from a vegetable most likely. But if you want to check on it, you can here:

      What I’m more concerned about is the Trichlorethylene, because the “ethyl” part sounds like an alcohol which can be an a vegetable (corn) derived alcohol. In the production section, it describes several steps, starting with acetylene. The acetylene is reacted with several different inorganic/elemental compounds such as calcium hydroxide, calcium chloride. I don’t click on these because I know that they are elemental/inorganic and not derived from a vegetable. I focus on the acetylene which sounds suspect, since acetic acid = white vinegar from corn, and many things ending in -ylene are from corn alcohol.

      So when I look at acetylene: I see that actually it’s a methane byproduct, which is a wood alcohol. Previous to that it was a coal byproduct.

      So overall HFA 134a looks pretty corn free.

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