So we've pretty much confirmed that Joe Goofus is, well, a Goofus Asthmatic. His latest goofus act was to show up in the emergency room with a full Ventolin inhaler. He said, huffing and puffing, "Yep, I'm in the process of becoming more like Jake Gallant."
But I'm not fooled. Once he's feeling better I ask him to let me see his inhaler. He reaches deep into his pocket, and then proudly proffers his little blue inhaler to me.
I check it out. I shake it, and it appears to be full. I check the counter, and it shows 81 puffs remain. Yep, it surely looks good. For a brief moment I think that maybe he really has turned the corner. But then I check the expiration date. Yes, and here I find the problem. The inhaler expired three months ago.
"Do you notice this inhaler tasting a little funny lately?" I ask.
"Actually, it does taste funny. It tasted like rotten eggs today. I just figured that was normal."
"Well," I say, "it is normal. It's caused because the medicine starts to change in composition after a while. It's still safe to use, but less effective.
"Oh, really? Maybe that's why it didn't work," Joe says.
"To make sure this doesn't happen to your inhaler, your pharmacist set an expiration date," I explain.
"Oh," he says, looking down at the ground, "I didn't know that."
Well, there's a lot Joe doesn't know. Yet it's not by lack of effort on our part: I personally have informed him of this a gazillion times.
"Yes," I say, "you should order a new inhaler when the counter shows about 20 puffs left, or about 9 months after you take it out of the box. The wise thing to do is to take a pen and write the date on the inhaler when you purchase it."
"Boy, I feel like such a goofus," he says.
Yeah, little does he know he is a full fledged goofus.
"Personally," I say, "I rarely have an inhaler last a year. However, there are times I lose one in the couch, or under the bed, or in the closet, or in the car. Sometimes I find these inhalers later on. This is when the date you put on the inhaler comes in handy. If it's more than a year old, I toss it in the trash."
"Okay," he says, as he wrestles with his jacket and hustles out the door.
"He'll be back," I think.
For the rest of us: We do the best we can with the wisdom we have today, and as we learn better we do better. In the meantime, check your inhalers. Are they expired?
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