Using an Asthma Inhaler

by Katelyn Schwanke
(last updated September 5, 2008)

Although inhalers are generally thought to be used predominantly by an asthmatic population, those who have severe allergies may also carry epinephrine (a drug that combats severe allergic shock) as a protective measure. If you carry an inhaler, for whatever reason, it is extremely important for you to understand how to use it properly. Many who carry an inhaler because of their doctor's admonition and have never been in a situation that warranted its use may not feel the proper urgency to learn how; a fast acting inhaler can provide a sense of security and be extremely effective in saving your life should a severe respiratory attack occur.

Before discussing how to use an inhaler it's important to understand what the mechanics are behind it. An inhaler, or bronchodilator, carries medication in aerosol form (gas like so it can be easily inhaled) or powder form that is pressurized or coupled with oxygen for easy delivery of medication to the patient. There are two basic types of inhalers prescribed, dry powder inhalers (DPIs) and meter-dosed inhalers (MDIs). Both types of inhalers are used in similar ways but you should always consult your physician for advice specific to you and your medical condition.

Follow these basic steps provided by the Mayo Clinic (an accredited research and practiced based medical establishment):

  1. Shake the inhaler forcefully and quickly multiple times.
  2. Remove mouthpiece covering.
  3. Check to make sure exposed mouthpiece is free from dust or other contamination (to properly clean it this may require a couple sprays).
  4. If you own a spacer tube (long tube that helps to ensure medication properly reaches lungs) place this on the mouthpiece now.
  5. Sit up straight and exhale slowly.
  6. If you have a spacer tube, place it directly in your mouth and close your lips around it. If you do not have a spacer tube, hold the inhaler mouthpiece in front of your open mouth.
  7. As you press down on the lever to deliver the medication into your mouth inhale slowly for about eight seconds.
  8. Hold your breath for ten seconds and then exhale slowly.
  9. Rinse your mouth with water.
  • It is extremely important to avoid administering too much of the medication. Bronchodilators work by widening vessels and air tubes so that oxygen and blood can pass through. If you administer too much, your blood vessels throughout your whole blood will relax, dilate (widen) and make your blood pressure drop to dangerous levels. Follow your prescription and consult the pharmacist for questions regarding over dosing.
  • If you have any more questions regarding how to use an inhaler consult your doctor or a nurse advice you on items specific to you.

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