How to Use a Metered-Dose Inhaler the Right Way
Using a metered-dose inhaler is a good way to take asthma medicines. There
are few side effects because the medicine goes right to the
airways inside the lungs. A spacer or
attached to the inhaler can help make your inhaler easier to use
and more effective. For patients taking inhaled steroids, a valved-holding
chamber or spacer may help prevent irritation to the mouth. Inhalers have changed propellants – learn more about this change from CFC to HFA inhalers.
Steps for Using an Inhaler
- Take off the cap and shake the inhaler.
- Breathe out all the way.
- Hold the inhaler in one of these two ways, as your doctor or asthma educator said:
- Use a spacer/valved-holding chamber (the best way, useful for all patients) by putting the inhaler into the end with the hole and the mouthpiece end in your mouth.
- If you don't have a spacer, hold inhaler 1 to 2 inches (or two finger widths) in front of your open mouth
Breathe in slowly
- As you start breathing in slowly through your mouth, press down on the inhaler one time. If you are using a spacer or valved-holding chamber, press down on the inhaler before starting to breathe in. Breathe in slowly.
- Keep on breathing in slowly, as deeply as you can.
Hold your breath
- Hold your breath as you count to 10 slowly, if you can.
- For inhaled quick-relief medicine (like albuterol), wait about 1
minute between puffs. There is no need to wait between puffs for other medicines.
Dry Powder Inhalers
Dry powder inhalers are used differently. To use a dry powder inhaler, close
your mouth tightly around the mouthpiece and inhale very fast. View more information on how to use dry powder inhaler.
The inhaler should be cleaned often to prevent buildup that will clog the inhaler.
- Once a day, clean the inhaler and cap by rinsing them in warm running water. Let them dry before you use it again.
- Twice a week wash the plastic mouthpiece with mild dishwashing soap and warm water. Rinse and dry it well before
putting it back.
Knowing When To Replace Your Inhaler
Some inhalers now include counters so you always know how many puffs are remaining in the device. For those that do not have counters, there are a variety of methods to determine how many puffs (i.e., how much medicine) is left.
If the canister is new, it is full. The number of puffs a canister
contains is listed on the label. Do NOT put your canister in water
to see if it is empty. This does not work.
- For a medicine you take each day: Take the number of puffs in the
canister when it is full, and divide it by the number of puffs
you take every day. This will tell you how many days your inhaler will last. For example:
Your inhaler canister has 200 puffs in it, you are told to take 8 puffs total every day.
8 puffs per day
) 200 puffs in container
This canister of medicine will last 25 days, so if you started using it on January 1, you should replace it on or before January 25.