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How to use an inhaler - with spacer

Metered-dose inhaler (MDI) administration - with spacer; Asthma - inhaler with spacer; Reactive airway disease - inhaler with spacer; Bronchial asthma - inhaler with spacer

Metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) usually have 3 parts:

  • A mouthpiece
  • A cap that goes over the mouthpiece
  • A canister full of medicine

If you use your inhaler the wrong way, less medicine gets to your lungs. A spacer device will help. The spacer connects to the mouthpiece. The inhaled medicine goes into the spacer tube first. Then you take 2 deep breaths to get the medicine into your lungs. Using a spacer wastes a lot less medicine than spraying the medicine into your mouth.

Spacers come in different shapes and sizes. Ask your doctor which spacer is best for you or your child. Almost all children can use a spacer. You do not need a spacer for dry powder inhalers.

The steps below tell you how to take your medicine with a spacer.

Getting Ready

  • Take the cap off the inhaler and spacer.
  • Shake the inhaler hard.
  • Attach the spacer to the inhaler.
  • If you have not used the inhaler in a while, you may need to prime it. See the instructions that came with your inhaler for how to do this.
  • Breathe out gently to empty your lungs.

Breathe in Slowly

  • Put the spacer between your teeth and close your lips tightly around it.
  • Keep your chin up.
  • Start breathing in slowly through your mouth.
  • Spray 1 puff into the spacer by pressing down on the inhaler.
  • Keep breathing in slowly. Breathe as deeply as you can.

Hold Your Breath

  • Take the spacer out of your mouth.
  • Hold your breath as you count to 10, if you can.
  • Pucker your lips and slowly breathe out through your mouth.
  • After using your inhaler, rinse your mouth with water, gargle, and spit. This helps reduce side effects from your medicine.

Keep Your Inhaler Clean

Look at the hole where the medicine sprays out of your inhaler. If you see powder in or around the hole, clean your inhaler. First, remove the metal canister from the L-shaped plastic mouthpiece. Rinse only the mouthpiece and cap in warm water. Let them air dry overnight. In the morning, put the canister back inside. Put the cap on. DO NOT rinse any other parts.

Replacing Your Inhaler

Most inhalers come with counters on the canister. Keep an eye on the counter and replace the inhaler before you run out of medicine.

DO NOT put your canister in water to see if it is empty. This does not work.

Storing Your Inhaler

Store your inhaler at room temperature. It may not work well if it is too cold. The medicine in the canister is under pressure. So make sure not to get it too hot or puncture it.

References

Laube BL, Dolovich MB. Aerosols and aerosol drug delivery systems. In: Adkinson NF Jr, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 66.

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program website. How to use a metered-dose inhaler. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/asthma/asthma_tipsheets.pdf. Updated March 2013. Accessed February 28, 2018.

  • Inhaler with spacer - adults

    Animation

  •  

    Inhaler with spacer - adults - Animation

    If you have a chronic lung disease, like asthma or COPD, a metered-dose inhaler is often your main type of therapy. An inhaler is a small, hand-held device that delivers medicine in the form of a spray that you breathe in. Using an inhaler may seem easy, but many people don't use them the right way. You need to know how to use your inhaler correctly for the medicine to get to your lungs and work effectively. A spacer device will help. The spacer connects to the inhaler mouthpiece, and the medicine goes into the spacer tube first. This allows you to breathe in the medicine more easily. Using a spacer wastes a lot less medicine than spraying the medicine directly into your mouth. It also makes it less important to get the exact timing for activating the inhaler while taking in a breath. These are instructions for using an inhaler with a spacer. First off, if you have not used the inhaler in a while, you may need to prime it. See the instructions that came with your inhaler for when and how to do this. Take the caps off the inhaler and spacer. Look inside each mouthpiece to make sure there is nothing in it. Shake the inhaler 10 to 15 times to mix the medicine with the propellant. Attach the inhaler mouthpiece to the open end of the spacer and hold it upright. Stand or sit upright. Breathe out all the way to empty your lungs. Place the spacer mouthpiece in your mouth so that it fits just past your teeth and above your tongue. Close your lips around the spacer so that you form a tight seal. Tilt your head back slightly. As you slowly begin to breathe in through your mouth, press down once on the top of the inhaler. Keep breathing in slowly, as deeply as you can. Your spacer may have a whistle that sounds if you breathe in too fast. Take the spacer out of your mouth. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. This lets the medicine reach deep into your lungs. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. If you need a second puff, wait about 1 minute before you take your next puff. Put the caps back on the inhaler and spacer. After using your inhaler, gargle and rinse your mouth with water. Do not swallow the water. This helps reduce side effects from your medicine. To keep your inhaler and spacer operating correctly, you need to keep them clean. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for when and how often to clean your inhaler and spacer. Using your inhaler with a spacer the right way ensures you get the medicine you need. It's a good idea to bring your inhaler and spacer to your medical appointments. That way your health care provider can make sure you are using them correctly.

  • Inhaler with spacer - child

    Animation

  •  

    Inhaler with spacer - child - Animation

    If you have a chronic lung disease, like asthma or COPD, a metered-dose inhaler is often your main type of therapy. An inhaler is a small, hand-held device that delivers medicine in the form of a spray that you breathe in. Using an inhaler may seem easy, but many people don't use them the right way. You need to know how to use your inhaler correctly for the medicine to get to your lungs and work effectively. A spacer device will help. The spacer connects to the inhaler mouthpiece, and the medicine goes into the spacer tube first. This allows you to breathe in the medicine more easily. Using a spacer wastes a lot less medicine than spraying the medicine directly into your mouth. It also makes it less important to get the exact timing for activating the inhaler while taking in a breath. These are instructions for using an inhaler with a spacer. First off, if you have not used the inhaler in a while, you may need to prime it. See the instructions that came with your inhaler for when and how to do this. Take the caps off the inhaler and spacer. Look inside each mouthpiece to make sure there is nothing in it. Shake the inhaler 10 to 15 times to mix the medicine with the propellant. Attach the inhaler mouthpiece to the open end of the spacer and hold it upright. Stand or sit upright. Breathe out all the way to empty your lungs. Place the spacer mouthpiece in your mouth so that it fits just past your teeth and above your tongue. Close your lips around the spacer so that you form a tight seal. Tilt your head back slightly. As you slowly begin to breathe in through your mouth, press down once on the top of the inhaler. Keep breathing in slowly, as deeply as you can. Your spacer may have a whistle that sounds if you breathe in too fast. Take the spacer out of your mouth. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. This lets the medicine reach deep into your lungs. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. If you need a second puff, wait about 1 minute before you take your next puff. Put the caps back on the inhaler and spacer. After using your inhaler, gargle and rinse your mouth with water. Do not swallow the water. This helps reduce side effects from your medicine. To keep your inhaler and spacer operating correctly, you need to keep them clean. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for when and how often to clean your inhaler and spacer. Using your inhaler with a spacer the right way ensures you get the medicine you need. It's a good idea to bring your inhaler and spacer to your medical appointments. That way your health care provider can make sure you are using them correctly.

  • Inhaler with spacer - adults

    Animation

  •  

    Inhaler with spacer - adults - Animation

    If you have a chronic lung disease, like asthma or COPD, a metered-dose inhaler is often your main type of therapy. An inhaler is a small, hand-held device that delivers medicine in the form of a spray that you breathe in. Using an inhaler may seem easy, but many people don't use them the right way. You need to know how to use your inhaler correctly for the medicine to get to your lungs and work effectively. A spacer device will help. The spacer connects to the inhaler mouthpiece, and the medicine goes into the spacer tube first. This allows you to breathe in the medicine more easily. Using a spacer wastes a lot less medicine than spraying the medicine directly into your mouth. It also makes it less important to get the exact timing for activating the inhaler while taking in a breath. These are instructions for using an inhaler with a spacer. First off, if you have not used the inhaler in a while, you may need to prime it. See the instructions that came with your inhaler for when and how to do this. Take the caps off the inhaler and spacer. Look inside each mouthpiece to make sure there is nothing in it. Shake the inhaler 10 to 15 times to mix the medicine with the propellant. Attach the inhaler mouthpiece to the open end of the spacer and hold it upright. Stand or sit upright. Breathe out all the way to empty your lungs. Place the spacer mouthpiece in your mouth so that it fits just past your teeth and above your tongue. Close your lips around the spacer so that you form a tight seal. Tilt your head back slightly. As you slowly begin to breathe in through your mouth, press down once on the top of the inhaler. Keep breathing in slowly, as deeply as you can. Your spacer may have a whistle that sounds if you breathe in too fast. Take the spacer out of your mouth. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. This lets the medicine reach deep into your lungs. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. If you need a second puff, wait about 1 minute before you take your next puff. Put the caps back on the inhaler and spacer. After using your inhaler, gargle and rinse your mouth with water. Do not swallow the water. This helps reduce side effects from your medicine. To keep your inhaler and spacer operating correctly, you need to keep them clean. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for when and how often to clean your inhaler and spacer. Using your inhaler with a spacer the right way ensures you get the medicine you need. It's a good idea to bring your inhaler and spacer to your medical appointments. That way your health care provider can make sure you are using them correctly.

  • Inhaler with spacer - child

    Animation

  •  

    Inhaler with spacer - child - Animation

    If you have a chronic lung disease, like asthma or COPD, a metered-dose inhaler is often your main type of therapy. An inhaler is a small, hand-held device that delivers medicine in the form of a spray that you breathe in. Using an inhaler may seem easy, but many people don't use them the right way. You need to know how to use your inhaler correctly for the medicine to get to your lungs and work effectively. A spacer device will help. The spacer connects to the inhaler mouthpiece, and the medicine goes into the spacer tube first. This allows you to breathe in the medicine more easily. Using a spacer wastes a lot less medicine than spraying the medicine directly into your mouth. It also makes it less important to get the exact timing for activating the inhaler while taking in a breath. These are instructions for using an inhaler with a spacer. First off, if you have not used the inhaler in a while, you may need to prime it. See the instructions that came with your inhaler for when and how to do this. Take the caps off the inhaler and spacer. Look inside each mouthpiece to make sure there is nothing in it. Shake the inhaler 10 to 15 times to mix the medicine with the propellant. Attach the inhaler mouthpiece to the open end of the spacer and hold it upright. Stand or sit upright. Breathe out all the way to empty your lungs. Place the spacer mouthpiece in your mouth so that it fits just past your teeth and above your tongue. Close your lips around the spacer so that you form a tight seal. Tilt your head back slightly. As you slowly begin to breathe in through your mouth, press down once on the top of the inhaler. Keep breathing in slowly, as deeply as you can. Your spacer may have a whistle that sounds if you breathe in too fast. Take the spacer out of your mouth. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. This lets the medicine reach deep into your lungs. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. If you need a second puff, wait about 1 minute before you take your next puff. Put the caps back on the inhaler and spacer. After using your inhaler, gargle and rinse your mouth with water. Do not swallow the water. This helps reduce side effects from your medicine. To keep your inhaler and spacer operating correctly, you need to keep them clean. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for when and how often to clean your inhaler and spacer. Using your inhaler with a spacer the right way ensures you get the medicine you need. It's a good idea to bring your inhaler and spacer to your medical appointments. That way your health care provider can make sure you are using them correctly.

    Self Care

     
     

    Review Date: 2/18/2018

    Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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