Sarah Michelle Gellar is tired of how pop culture portrays people with asthma — and she’s aiming to change that.
In partnership with the pharmaceutical company Teva, Gellar helped launch the Inhaler Tales campaign, which aims to raise awareness on proper inhaler use and encourage those with asthma to advocate for themselves.
“I think that there’s this stereotype — like any kind of diagnosis — [asthma] is a sign of weakness. And it’s not,” the Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum told ABC Audio. “Our bodies are not machines.”
Asthma is a condition of the lungs, says the Mayo Clinic, where the airways can narrow and swell, which in turn can make breathing difficult or trigger an attack. Asthma can’t be cured but it can be controlled with medication.
Gellar took note of how pop culture makes light of asthmatic characters and that those misguided stereotypes can feed misinformation. For example, Mikey from The Goonies and Albert from Hitch used their inhaler as a prop and were portrayed as defenseless or cowardly. Gellar says those tropes should be “taken with a grain of salt” because asthma is “not something to be ashamed of.”
Gellar also noted how actors who play asthmatic people don’t correctly use an inhaler on screen.
“They just puff into it. Always wrong,” the Cruel Intentions star stressed, noting a recent Teva study that found over 50% of people with asthma or COPD use their inhaler incorrectly.
Gellar said improper inhaler use can exacerbate symptoms, and stressed, “With the right treatment program, you really should be able to live your life to the fullest.”
That’s why she says it’s “so important… to know how to properly utilize that equipment.” Gellar encourages those with asthma to be honest with their doctors when their inhaler isn’t effectively controlling their symptoms.