How to Use an Inhaler (With and Without a Spacer)

Not all inhalers are equal, but using them correctly is crucial.

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Inhalers are devices that treat breathing difficulties, such as asthma and COPD. Many inhalers look alike, but it’s important to know that the medicine inside—and when you use it—can differ greatly. In order for your inhaler to help you breathe easier, it’s important to know how to use it correctly.

Common Types of Inhalers

First, let’s talk about common inhaler types:

A metered-dose inhaler delivers medicine to the airways. The medicine is released by either a button that you press, or automatically when you inhale.

Doctors tend to categorize metered-dose inhalers based on the medicine inside, which depends on your body’s needs. These medicines typically fall under two main categories: corticosteroids and bronchodilators.

Inhaled corticosteroids help reduce inflammation in the airways. This, in turn, helps normalize the amount of mucus in your airways, and bring down swelling and tightening of your bronchial tubes.

Bronchodilators help relax muscles in your airways. There are different types of bronchodilators with two very different jobs:

  • Short-acting “rescue” bronchodilators are used for fast symptom relief. This medicine can help you feel better in the short term during an attack, but they are not meant to help with the underlying lung condition in the long-term.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators and/or inhaled steroids, on the other hand, are taken daily, even when you don’t have symptoms. These are meant to help with long-term symptom control.

Some people benefit from using a spacer with their inhaler. A spacer is a device that you attach to your inhaler to slow the delivery of the medicine.

These differences are why it’s so important to know what inhaler(s) you have, and use them correctly. Review your inhaler type(s) and instructions with your doctor, and keep these step-by-step instructions as a guide.

How to Use Your Inhaler

Whether you’re using an inhaler with or without a spacer, here are the steps to use your inhaler:

  • Shake the inhaler 10-15 times and take the cap off
  • Breathe out all the way
  • Put the inhaler or spacer in your mouth
  • Press down to release the medicine
  • Breathe in slowly for 3-5 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 10 seconds
  • Breathe out slowly

Some inhalers recommend that you rinse your mouth with water afterwards.

By taking your medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes, you can take control of your lung health and breathe easier.