By Kate Aguirre, M.D., and Nathan Bertsch, PharmD
How to correctly use and care for inhalers:
Less than half of people who use inhalers are using them correctly. Improper use makes inhalers less effective, since the medication may not even be getting into the lungs. If you have asthma or COPD, it is important to make sure that you are using each of your inhalers correctly. In the following video, we will show you how to use a Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI), which is one of the more common types of inhaler.
Important tips: If you use a steroid inhaler, then you should rinse out your mouth with water and spit after use to prevent thrush and voice changes. You can do this with any inhaler. It is recommended to use a spacer with all MDIs.
It is also important to clean your inhalers regularly. If you are not cleaning your inhalers, then you are at risk for inhaling dust, dirt and other particles. An MDI should be cleaned once per week. Remove the canister and cap; rinse the plastic case and mouthpiece under lukewarm water and let air-dry. For Advair HFA and Flovent HFA: do not run under water; open cap and use a Q-tip to swab the opening where the medicine comes out; wipe the mouthpiece with wet tissue and let air dry. For other inhalers, read the handouts that come with them or ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
How to use a Metered Dose Inhaler (Advair HFA, Aerospan, Alvesco, Atrovent HFA, Dulera, Flovent HFA, ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, QVAR, Symbicort, Ventolin HFA, Xopenex HFA):
- Take off the cap and inspect for any loose objects or dust in the mouthpiece.
- Shake the inhaler and prime the inhaler by spraying two sprays into the air.
- Breathe out all the way.
- Put spacer mouthpiece or the inhaler in your mouth.
- Begin inhaling slowly through your mouth, then press down on the inhaler. Be sure not to breathe in through your nose. If using a spacer, then wait five seconds until you begin inhaling.
- Keep breathing in slowly, as deeply as you can, for three to five more seconds.
- Hold your breath as you count to 10 if you can. Try to hold your breath for at least five seconds.
- Then breathe normally.
- Wait for 30 seconds before taking the second puff.
- Shake inhaler before each puff. You do not have to repeat priming unless it has been longer than three days since the last spray.