It is important to use your inhaler the right way so that the full dose of medication reaches your lungs. You can use these general directions to help you remember the right way to use your inhaler, but you will also need specific directions for the type of inhaler your doctor has prescribed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy of the manufacturer's information for the patient that comes with your inhaler and read this information carefully.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you how to use your inhaler and to watch you as you use it for the first time. When you return on your next visit, ask your doctor or pharmacist to check that you are using your inhaler properly.
Most inhalers can be used alone or with a spacer (plastic tube that attaches to an inhaler and helps the medication to reach the lungs). Spacers are useful for all patients, especially children, older adults, and patients who are using inhaled corticosteroids (a type of medication used to prevent swelling of the airways in patients who have asthma). Ask your doctor if you should use your inhaler with a spacer. If you will be using a spacer, be sure you understand how to use and clean it. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
You usually should prime (spray a few times into the air away from your face) your inhaler before using it for the first time or if you have not used it for several weeks. Read the manufacturer's directions for specific information about priming your inhaler.
These directions explain how to use metered-dose inhalers. If you are using a different type of inhaler such as a dry powder inhaler or breath-activated inhaler (a type of inhaler that releases the medication automatically when you breath in), you will need to follow different directions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you need more information or if you do not know what type of inhaler you are using.
Reprinted, with permission, from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program'sExpert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of AsthmaandPractical Guide for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD, 2007.
You can use these general directions to clean your inhaler. However, you should always read and follow the manufacturer's specific directions for cleaning the type of inhaler that you are using. You can find these directions in the manufacturer's information for the patient.
You cannot see the medication in your inhaler, so it is hard to tell when it is empty. Some people think they can tell when their inhalers are empty by floating the canisters in water, spraying the medication into the air, or tasting the medication. However, none of these methods really work, and people who use these methods may continue to use their inhalers after the inhalers are empty.
Some inhalers come with a counter that shows the number of sprays that remain in the inhaler. If your inhaler comes with a counter, do not use the inhaler after the counter shows that there are no sprays left. If your inhaler does not come with a counter, follow the directions in the manufacturer's information or use the directions below to find out when you should replace your inhaler. Always be sure that you replace your inhaler when it is empty so that you receive your full dose of medication.
For long-term control medications that you take regularly each day:
For quick-relief medications that you use as needed:
Reprinted, with permission, from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program'sExpert Panel Report 2: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of AsthmaandPractical Guide for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD, 1997.