Inhalers

Medical Minutes: Answers to frequently asked questions

Inhalers

Kristin Schiller

PA-C

Question: What is an inhaler and how does it work?


Metered dose inhalers or MDIs are hand held devices that are used to treat breathing problems. Albuterol is a commonly used medication in inhalers. Albuterol is a type of bronchodilator and works by relaxing the smooth muscles lining airways. When these muscles are relaxed, airways are more open and symptoms like chest tightness and wheezing are improved.


Am I using my inhaler correctly?


Studies show that a large percentage of people do not use their inhaler correctly.


To use your inhaler:

  1. Prime your inhaler if it’s your first time using it or if it has not been used in the last 14 days.
  2. To prime, shake the inhaler and press down 4 times to release 4 sprays into the air away from your face.
  3. Always shake your inhaler 10-15 times before using.
  4. Breathe out through your mouth and try to empty your lungs.
  5. Place your lips around the mouth piece and form a tight seal.
  6. Breathe in slowly and deeply while pressing down on the canister to release the medication.
  7. Hold your breath for as long as you can (5-10 seconds). Remove the inhaler and breathe out slowly.
  8. If you need a second puff, wait 1 minute and then repeat steps 3-7.


A spacer or a holding canister can be used with a MDI to help get even more medication into the lungs. To use a spacer:

  1. Prime your inhaler if needed.
  2. Shake inhaler 10-15 times.
  3. Insert the inhaler in the hole at the back of the spacer.
  4. Blow air out until lungs are empty.
  5. Seal lips around spacer mouthpiece.
  6. Press down on canister to release medication into spacer.
  7. Breath in slowly until lungs feel full.
  8. Hold breath for as long as you can (5-10 seconds).
  9. Remove spacer and breath out normally.
  10. Wait 1 minute if second dose is needed.


We recommend watching a video or bringing your inhaler to your next appointment to make sure you are using it correctly.


CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/inhaler_video/default.htm


American Lung Association: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/patient-resources-and-videos/videos/how-to-use-a-metered-dose-inhaler

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