This guide will show you step by step guide on how to use your inhaler. There are various types of inhalers in the market and this is not an exhaustive list. We have done the step to step guide on how to use some of the most common inhalers. Read to the end to get the checklist on how to use an inhaler. To jump straight to how to use a specific inhaler, click on the link in the table of content.
What is the importance of knowing how to use an inhaler?
It is important that people who have Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) know how to use their inhaler as having a good inhaler technique have been shown to maximize the benefits of asthma medications and improved outcomes for the patient. Poor inhaler technique, in contrast, lowers the amount of drugs that reach the lungs, increases wastes of asthma medications, and may lead to poorly controlled asthma or COPD, reduced quality of life and increased incidence of emergency hospital admissions due to asthma attacks.
Knowing how to use your inhaler means you get the best out of that inhaler.
An inhaler device is a container that holds the medicines which treat asthma. There are different types of inhaler. This page gives information about the different inhaler devices and how to use the inhaler devices. It also tells you the type of asthma medicines in the inhalers. The image of different inhaler devices use is for illustration and to aid identification. Some of the images used are that of placebo and training inhalers which contain no medicines. The inhalers prescribed by your doctor should have the medicine in it. Please note that different strengths or brands may be different colours from those illustrated.
Common inhaler technique errors and suggestions solutions
This article on the pharmaceutical journal lists the most common errors patient make while using their inhalers. These errors could be because the patients do not know how to use the inhaler prescribed or because over time their inhaler technique deteriorates. So not only is it important that you know how to use an inhaler, but it is also important to refresh that knowledge regularly.
|Error||Inhaler device||Explanation||Suggested solution|
|Not shaking before use||Aerosol||Not shaking the aerosol before use may lead to inconsistent dosing.||Shake all Aerosol inhalers before use.|
|Not priming the inhaler device before use.||Aerosol||Priming is checking that the spray is working as it should. If not done, you may not get the required dose in.||Prime your inhaler if using it for the first time or if using it after you have not used it for a while.|
|Not breathing out before inhaling||All||When you breath out fully or as much as you comfortably can, you reduce the amount of air in your airways and creates space for the air containing your medicine with the next breath. This means deeper inhalation with greater opportunity of carrying the drug to where it does its job.||Breath out fully or as much as you comfortably can.|
|Not positioning your inhaler device correctly.||DPI||Holding your inhaler pointing downwards during or after loading the dose may cause some of the powder to escape.||Hold your inhaler horizontally or pointing upright.|
|Incorrectly coordinating pressured metered dose inhaler (pMDI) actuation during inhalation||pressured metered dose inhaler (pMDI)||Not correctly coordinating breathing in with pressing the canister could mean the medication is not delivered to the lung as supposed.||Press the canister while breathing in the dose.|
|Using the wrong inspiration flow. Too fast or too slow.||All||Experts believe that the total amount of inhaled drugs deposited in your lungs is strongly affected by the speed of inhalation.||For Aerosol devices, such as pMDIs, you should do a slow and steady inhalation. |
For DPIs you should do a quick and deep inhalation
|Using an empty inhaler||All||When you use an empty inhaler, no dose will be delivered.||Ensure your inhaler is not empty before using it.|
|Not holding your breath after inhalation||All||Holding your breath increases lung deposition by sedimentation. When the air is kept still for a few seconds, more particles of the inhaled drug will sediment on to the receptor sites.||Hold your breath for between 5-10 seconds or as long as you comfortably can.|
|Having multiple doses without waiting between doses.||All||Taking another dose immediately can reduce the dose delivered per dose.||If you require a second dose, wait 30 seconds|
|Not maintaining your spacer device.||Spacer||Spacers that are not maintained may be cracked and cause drugs to escape.||Replace your spacers every 6 to 12 months.|
How to use an inhaler
Click on the links below to read how to use the different types of inhaler.
Checklist on how to use an inhaler
- I have prepared the inhaler device. This means removing the mouthpiece cover, opening the device, and holding the inhaler device upright.
- I have prepared the dose. This means shaking the inhaler if it is an aerosol or loading the dose if it is a dry powder inhaler.
- I will breathe out gently as far as I comfortably can away from the inhaler.
- I Will wrap and seal the mouthpiece with my lips.
- I will breathe in and co-ordinate inhalation according to the type of inhaler For dry Powder Inhalers, do a strong and deep inhalation (forceful). For aerosols and MDI including when using a spacer, use slow and steady inhalation (gentle)
- I will remove the inhaler from my mouth and hold my breath for 5 to 10 seconds
- I will repeat dose if required after waiting 30 secs then close the mouthpiece of the device.
About the author
Nwasom is a pharmacy graduate and a pharmacist currently practising in the United Kingdom. I have great experience communicating with patients and their family as gained through working as a pharmacist in both the hospital and community pharmacy sector. I love writing so it was a natural thing to try and pass medical and health information on through writing.