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Asthma Inhalers


How Can I Be Sure There Are Drugs in my Inhaler?

Many new inhalers include a counter. For those without, knowing how much medication is available in an asthma inhaler is a problem. Many people with asthma tell of using their inhalers until they can no longer hear a "puff" sound when they try to spray it. The problem is that most asthma canisters generate a puff sound long after the asthma medication is gone. You may be using the asthma inhaler properly and hearing the puff sound when you spray it, yet the asthma inhaler canister may be completely empty. This is a serious problem when you depend on the inhaled medication to relieve asthma symptoms.

The best way to know how many doses remain in an asthma inhaler without a counter is to mark the number of doses used on the inhaler and then toss the inhaler after you've used this number of puffs. You can find the total number of doses on the asthma inhaler box or canister. Mark the date on your calendar when you expect to use all of the available puffs in the new asthma inhaler and obtain a new asthma inhaler before this date. Keep one or two extra quick-relief inhalers at home. Carefully review the instructions that came with the inhaler (or locate them online). Some inhalers must be shaken before each use; others must be primed if not used for several days.

When Is a Spacer Used With an Asthma Inhaler?

A spacer is a tube that attaches to the asthma inhaler and holds the medication until you can breathe it in. This makes using the asthma inhaler easier and helps to deposit the medication into the lungs more efficiently. Not all inhalers should be used with a spacer, so discuss this with your pharmacist. There are times that an MDI or asthma inhaler may be used without a spacer. Your doctor will decide which method of using an asthma inhaler is best for you.

Spacers with masks are available for use by small children or anyone else who may not be able to breathe in correctly through a standard spacer connected to an asthma inhaler.


How Do I Use an Asthma Inhaler Correctly?

To use an asthma inhaler (MDI) with a spacer:

  1. Remove the caps from the asthma inhaler and spacer device. Shake the asthma inhaler.
  2. Insert the asthma inhaler into the open end of the spacer, which is opposite the spacer's mouthpiece. 
  3. Breathe out completely.
  4. Place the mouthpiece of the spacer between your teeth and seal your lips tightly around it.
  5. Press the canister of the asthma inhaler once to release the medicine. The medicine will be trapped in the spacer.
  6. Breathe in slowly and completely through your mouth. With some spacers, you will hear a horn-like sound if you are breathing too quickly. This means you need to slow down on your next breath.
  7. Hold your breath for at least 10 seconds to allow the medication to deposit in your lungs.
  8. Remove the spacer and breathe out slowly.
  9. Wait for about one minute and then repeat steps for every puff of medication ordered.
  10. Replace the caps on your asthma inhaler and spacer when finished.
  11. If you are using an MDI that contains a steroid, gargle and rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after each use.

WebMD Medical Reference

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