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When To Use Asthma Inhaler

Do Bronchodilator Inhalers Damage My Lungs

How to correctly use an asthma inhaler

Your body may fail to respond to the medicine if you use your bronchodilator too much. Overuse can also cause your body to become overly sensitive to asthma or COPD triggers. Triggers may include smoke, pollution, dust and chemical fumes.

Using steroid inhalers may also increase your risk of developing nontuberculous mycobacteria infections or pneumonia, especially if youre 65 or older.

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Don’t have written asthma action plan from your doctor
  • Use an inhaler, but don’t have a spacer
  • Miss more than 1 day of school per month for asthma
  • Asthma limits exercise or sports
  • Asthma attacks wake child up from sleep
  • Use more than 1 inhaler per month
  • No asthma check-up in more than 1 year
  • You have other questions or concerns

Where To Get Help

The following organisations have a range of resources, including fact sheets and videos to help you take your asthma medicine properly:

Read Also: How To Get Diagnosed With Asthma

Getting The Most Out Of Your Inhaler

Ask your doctor, pharmacist or asthma & respiratory educator to:

  • Explain how your inhaler should be used
  • Check you are using your inhaler properly
  • Tell you where to find the expiry date on your inhaler
  • Show you how to check if your inhaler is empty or nearly empty
  • Discuss any unwanted effects from your medication
  • Explain how to clean your inhaler and spacer

Different brands of inhalers sometimes have slightly different instructions to each other for similar steps. The checklists in our How-To Video library have been simplified and standardised where possible to reduce confusion.

Your inhaler will come with instructions in the package. Always check the package insert for any specific instructions.

Why Proper Use Of Inhalers Matters

Dr. Arunesh Kumar Pulmonologist: Some Steps to Use an Ashthma Inhaler ...

While we have discussed the many options available thanks to the development of different inhaler types over the years, talking about proper inhaler use is equally important. There have been many studies over the years about incorrect inhaler use which show why knowing the correct technique to use inhalers is important. Improper inhaler use has also been linked with poor control of diseases, more frequent emergency room visits, and even with greater risk of hospitalization. This is because if your inhaler is used incorrectly, the proper medication fails to reach the airways and lungs and they dont receive the treatment that they are supposed to receive. So, no matter what inhaler types you end up using for your treatment, be sure to also be aware of proper inhaler techniques so you can get the full effect of the medicine.

Recommended Reading: Can Asthma Attacks Go Away On Their Own

What Drugs Are In The Inhaler

Many inhalers contain steroids, like prednisone, to treat inflammation. Others have a type of drug called a bronchodilator to open up your airways. Some have both — this is known as a combination inhaler.

Anti-inflammatory asthma inhalers prevent asthma attacks and reduce swelling and mucus in your airways. They include:

For in-depth information, see WebMD’s article on Asthma, Steroids, and Other Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.

Bronchodilator asthma inhalers are either short- or long-acting. They widen your airways to ease symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. They include:

  • Short-acting beta-agonists
  • Long-acting beta-agonists . The combination inhalers containing both a long-acting beta-agonist and a steroid include Advair, Dulera, and Symbicort.
  • Long-acting anticholinergics such as tiotropium bromide , available for anyone age 6 or older. This medicine can be used along with your regular maintenance medication.
  • Combivent and DuoNeb inhalers contain both albuterol and ipratropium albuterol and ipratropium may also be given using a nebulizer.

What Else Should I Know

Using nebulizers or inhalers can be tricky. So ask your doctor to show you how the device works before you first use it. Doctors might ask an older kid or teen to demonstrate using an inhaler and offer advice, if needed.

If you have any questions or if you’re concerned that your child isn’t getting the right dose of medicine, talk to your doctor.

Read Also: What Makes Asthma Flare Up

What To Remember When Using Your Inhaler

  • Stand or sit upright when using your inhaler
  • Remove the mouthpiece cover, check inside to ensure its clean and give it a shake
  • Hold the inhaler upright with your thumb on the base and fingers on the top of the canister your hand should make a C shape
  • Breathe out as far as is comfortable and place the mouthpiece in your mouth, between your teeth. Close your lips around it and dont bite
  • Breathe in through your mouth just after you start to breathe in, press down on the top of the canister to release a puff of medicine. Continue breathing in steadily and deeply
  • Take the inhaler out of your mouth and hold your breath for about ten seconds .
  • If you need another dose of medicine, wait for about 30 seconds before taking the second dose.

The above steps are for those using metered dose inhalers , which are the most popular type of inhaler. If you use an alternative type of inhaler, please visit our asthma page so we can help you ensure you are using this correctly.

We offer inhalers through our online servicemeaning you dont have to visit a doctor every time you need an inhaler.

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How To Clean Your Inhaler

Asthma how-to: How to use an inhaler with a spacer and mouthpiece

You have to clean them about once a week so the medication doesnât build up and block the mouthpiece.


  • Remove the canister and cap from the mouthpiece.
  • Donât wash the canister or put it in water.
  • Run warm tap water through the top and bottom of the mouthpiece for 30-60 seconds.
  • Use a soft cloth to remove any medication buildup.
  • Shake off the water.
  • Let the mouthpiece dry completely. Overnight is best.
  • If you need to use the inhaler before the mouthpiece dries, shake off the extra water, replace the canister, point it away from your face, and test-spray it twice before you use it.

DPI: Donât wash it with soap and water. Clean the mouthpiece with a dry cloth. Check the instructions for more information.

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Can Medicine Alone Help My Asthma

Not usually. Although medicines help a lot, they may not be able to do the job alone. You have to avoid the things that cause or trigger your asthma symptoms as much as you can. Asthma triggers can be found outside or inside your home, school, or workplace.

Improving the indoor air quality in your home is an important part of asthma control. Your indoor air can be more polluted than outside air. Our interactive Healthy Home can show you ways to improve the indoor air quality of your home. A healthier home can reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants.

Additional Feature: Valved Holding Chamber

A valved holding chamber is a device that is placed on the mouthpiece of the metered-dose inhaler . It has a one-way valve that prevents you from breathing into the device. It can be used with a mouthpiece or facemask.

There are several advantages of using a valved holding chamber. You do not need to coordinate releasing the medication and breathing. You release the medication first. Then you breathe in. It also prevents medication from spraying directly into the back of your mouth and sticking there. Using this device can help get more medication into your lungs.2Figure 2. Metered dose inhaler with a valved holding chamber

To use the valved holding chamber with a metered dose inhaler:2,3

  • Shake the inhaler.
  • Remove the cap on the valved holding chamber. Look inside to make sure nothing is in the chamber.
  • Place the rubber ring around the mouthpiece on the metered dose inhaler.
  • Breathe out until your lungs are empty.
  • Place your mouth around the mouthpiece.
  • Press on the canister to release one puff of medication.
  • Within 5 seconds of releasing the medication, start to breathe in slowly. Breathe in for 3 to 5 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 10 seconds.
  • Rinse out your mouth with water and spit it out, especially if you are taking an inhaled corticosteroid. Rinsing helps to prevent thrush . It also reduces the amount of medication you swallow.
  • Recommended Reading: What Age Does Asthma Usually Start

    When To Use An Albuterol Rescue Inhaler

    Albuterol rescue inhalers can be used to both prevent and stop an asthma attack.

    At the first sign of asthma symptoms including shortness of breath, mild tightness in your chest, coughing and wheezing promptly use your rescue inhaler. Using a rescue inhaler should help relieve your symptoms within 15 to 20 minutes. Additionally, the medication also remains in your system and continues to work to prevent asthma attacks for up to four to six hours.

    You can also use an albuterol rescue inhaler to prevent an asthma flare. If youve been diagnosed with asthma, you probably know your asthma triggers. For example, if common allergens like pollen or pet dander tend to trigger your asthma, you can use your rescue inhaler 15 to 20 minutes before you head outside or visit your in-laws home and their feline friend.

    What Are The Side Effects Of Bronchodilators

    How To Use Inhaler : How to use a flexhaler asthma inhaler video ...

    The side effects of bronchodilators vary according to which type you use.

    Side effects of beta 2-agonists include:

    • Nervous or shaky feelings.
    • Trouble sleeping.

    Some beta 2-agonists, including albuterol, are available as pills or syrups. You may have more side effects when you take these forms because theyre a higher dosage. You also absorb them through your bloodstream.

    Side effects of anticholinergic drugs include:

    • Dry throat, eyes and nose.
    • Nausea and vomiting.
    • Temporary blurred vision if the medicine gets in your eyes.

    Anticholinergic drugs may make it difficult to urinate . Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any conditions that affect your bladder. These conditions may include benign prostate enlargement , bladder stones or prostate cancer.

    Side effects of theophylline include:

    • Nausea and vomiting.

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    Are There Any Side Effects

    Reliever inhalers are a safe and essential treatment for asthma symptoms when they suddenly flare up. They have very few side effects.

    Some people notice that they feel a bit shaky or their heart beats faster than normal.

    Youre more likely to notice these side effects if you have needed to use more puffs than recommended of your reliever inhaler. They’ll usually pass quickly and are not dangerous. See your GP or asthma nurse if youre worried.

    The best way to avoid side effects is to have a regular asthma review. This means your GP or asthma nurse can make sure youre doing all you can to prevent asthma symptoms, like taking your preventer inhaler regularly as prescribed.

    Your preventer inhaler works away in the background to prevent symptoms from coming on in the first place. If you use it every day, even when youre well, you won’t need to use your reliever inhaler so much.

    How Does An Inhaler Work

    Metered dose inhalers

    MDIs push out a pre-measured spray of asthma medicine. They look like mini aerosol cans. When a person squeezes the inhaler, a measured “puff” of medicine is released.

    MDIs require coordination when used on their own. A child must be able to activate the device and breathe in at the same time. If not, the medicine may end up in the mouth instead of in the lungs. That’s why for younger kids many doctors recommend attaching the metered dose inhaler to a spacer.

    A spacer is a kind of holding chamber for asthma medicine. It attaches to the inhaler on one end and to a mouthpiece or mask on the other end. When someone pushes down on the inhaler, the medicine stays in the spacer until he or she is ready to breathe it in. So, it’s possible for very young kids and even babies to take their medicines using a metered dose inhaler with a spacer because they don’t have to “do” anything other than sit and breathe.

    With a spacer, it usually takes less than 30 seconds to get medicine into the lungs.

    Some MDIs have counters that indicate how many doses remain. If there’s no counter, the number of doses already used should be tracked so that the inhaler can be replaced on time.

    Dry Powder Inhalers

    Dry powder inhalers deliver medicine as a powder. The powder is also breathed in, but it doesn’t spray out. Kids need to do more of the work by inhaling the powdered medicine quickly and strongly. Most kids can do this when they’re around 5 or 6 years old.

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    How To Use An Inhaler

    This article was co-authored by Alan O. Khadavi, MD, FACAAI and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA. Dr. Alan O. Khadavi is a Board Certified Allergist and a Pediatric Allergy Specialist based in Los Angeles, California. He holds a BS in biochemistry from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an MD from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn. Dr. Khadavi completed his pediatric residency at Schneider Childrens Hospital in New York, and then went on to complete his allergy and immunology fellowship and pediatric residency at Long Island College Hospital. He is board certified in adult and pediatric allergy/immunology. Dr. Khadavi is a Diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, a Fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology , and a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology . Dr. Khadavi’s honors include Castle Connollys list of Top Doctors 2013-2020, and Patient Choice Awards “Most Compassionate Doctor” in 2013 & 2014.There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 109,389 times.

    What Is An Inhaler

    Using an Inhaler with a Spacer Mask

    Around 1 in 13 people in the United States have asthma, and on average, 10 people die from this condition each day. A doctor may prescribe an asthma inhaler to help treat the symptoms of the condition.

    Inhalers are portable, hand-held devices that deliver asthma medication to the lungs and airways. Inhalers can help prevent or relieve asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.

    Bronchodilators can be either short- or long-acting.

    Short-acting inhalers, which people may also call quick-relief or rescue inhalers, provide short-term relief for sudden asthma symptoms.

    Long-acting inhalers, on the other hand, can help prevent asthma symptoms. A person will usually need to use these inhalers daily.

    Doctors may prescribe one or both types of bronchodilators in inhaler forms. An individual can also purchase over-the-counter inhalers to ease asthma symptoms.

    Medical News Today chooses products that fit the following criteria:

    • Price: Products fit a variety of budgets.
    • Purpose: Products are suitable for a range of needs.
    • Clarity: Brands and products give clear product information, including instructions on how to use a device.

    It is advisable to consider the following factors before purchasing an OTC inhaler:

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    Getting Your Technique Checked

    Whether its your annual asthma review or an asthma appointment, ask your GP or asthma nurse to check your inhaler technique. This is especially important if:

    • youve recently had symptoms or an asthma attack
    • youve been prescribed a new type of inhaler
    • the design of your inhaler has changed.

    Even if youre using the same inhaler youve always had, it can be easy for little mistakes to slip in. You can also ask your pharmacist to show you how to use your inhaler correctly.

    How To Use An Mdi Inhaler Without A Spacer

    Take off the mouthpiece cover, then:

    • Shake it for 5 seconds.
    • Hold the inhaler up with your index finger on top and your thumb underneath to support it. Use the other hand to hold the spacer if you need to.
    • Put the mouthpiece between your teeth, and close your lips tightly around it.
    • You can also hold the mouthpiece about the width of two fingers away from your mouth.
    • Press the top down, and breathe in until your lungs fill completely — about 4-6 seconds.
    • Hold the medicine in your lungs as long as you can , then breathe out.
    • If you donât get enough air in the first breath, wait 15-30 seconds and try again. Shake the canister again before the next puff.
    • Recap the mouthpiece.
    • If your medicine has a steroid in it, rinse your mouth and gargle with water after you use the inhaler. Spit out the water.

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    How Do You Use A Spacer With An Inhaler

  • First, make sure there is medicine in the inhaler.
  • Stand or sit up straight.
  • Remove the cap and shake the inhaler.
  • Insert the inhaler into the end of the spacer.
  • Breathe out all the way.
  • Place the spacer mouthpiece in the mouth. If using a spacer with a mask, place the mask firmly on the face, covering the nose and mouth.
  • Press down on the inhaler.
  • Take a slow, deep breath hold it for 10 seconds and then breathe out. If your child is not old enough to do this, hold the mask in place for 10 breaths before removing it.
  • If you are prescribed more than one puff, you should wait 30 seconds before doing the next one.
  • Rinse your mouth with water, or brush your teeth.
  • Wipe your face if using a spacer with a mask.

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