Inhaled asthma medicine needs to reach the airways to work. Here are 10 common mistakes made when using a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) and how to correct them.
FIX IT: Sitting up straight or standing allows the lungs to fully inhale and provides more power to exhale.
2. Using an empty inhaler
FIX IT: Request a refill when the inhaler has 30 puffs or doses left.
3. Not shaking or priming the inhaler*
FIX IT: Shake the inhaler canister vigorously (about 10 to 15 times) for the medication to be ready to work. When using a new inhaler, prime it by releasing three to four test sprays. Prime again if not used for several weeks. *This tip applies to MDI inhalers. Diskus or dry powder inhalers do not require shaking.
4. Using an MDI inhaler without a spacer
FIX IT: A spacer helps more of the medicine get to the airways. Insert the inhaler into the spacer. Spray one puff of medicine and inhale slowly. Hold your breath for a count of 10 and exhale slowly.
5. Spraying several puffs of inhaler into spacer
FIX IT: Spray only one puff of the inhaler into the spacer for each breath. Breathe out before inhaling. Inhale and hold your breath for a count of 10, then exhale. Repeat for the number of puffs the doctor prescribed.
6. Holding the head too far forward or backward
FIX IT: The head needs to be in a normal position, not too far back or too far forward, to help make a direct path for the medicine to reach the airways.
7. Tongue or teeth in the way of spacer/inhaler opening
FIX IT: Put the mouthpiece of the spacer/inhaler in the mouth above the tongue, under the top teeth.
8. Mouth not tight enough around spacer/inhaler
FIX IT: Close the lips around the mouthpiece of the spacer or inhaler so air does not escape.
9. Directing spacer/inhaler at tongue or roof of mouth
FIX IT: Aim the spacer/inhaler at the back of the throat, so the medicine reaches the lungs.
10. Inhaling medicine too fast
FIX IT: Inhale slowly. A whistle sound made when using a spacer means the inhalation is too fast.
These tips are not applicable to breath-activated and powder inhalers.
Follow instructions for using your inhaler.
Gargle and spit after inhaling a steroid.
Show your inhaler technique to your provider.
Clean the inhaler and spacer according to instructions.