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How To Use Inhaler: Exploring its Types, Preparation, Techniques and Maintenance

By Dr. Priyanka Aggarwal in Pulmonology

May 17 , 2024 | 2 min read

Inhalers are vital for managing respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung-related ailments. When used correctly, they deliver medication directly to the airways, providing quick relief or long-term control of symptoms. However, improper usage can significantly reduce their effectiveness. This comprehensive guide aims to elucidate the proper technique to maximize the benefits of inhaler therapy, drawing from authentic sources and expert recommendations.

1. Understanding Inhaler Types:

  • Metered-Dose Inhalers (MDIs): These are the most common type of inhalers, delivering a precise dose of medication with each actuation.
  • Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs): These inhalers deliver medication in powder form and require a forceful inhalation to dispense the dose.
  • Soft Mist Inhalers (SMIs): SMIs deliver a fine mist of medication and are suitable for individuals struggling with coordination or inhalation.

2. Inhaler Preparation:

  • Shake well: Before using an MDI or SMI, shake the inhaler to ensure uniform dispersion of medication.
  • Prime the inhaler: If it's the first time using a new inhaler or hasn't been used for some time, prime it according to the manufacturer's instructions to ensure proper dosing.
  • Check medication expiration: Expired medication may not be as effective. Always check the expiry date and replace it if necessary.

3. Proper Inhalation Technique:

  • Correct posture: Stand or sit upright to allow optimal airflow to the lungs.
  • Empty lungs: Exhale fully before using the inhaler to create space for the medication to reach the airways.
  • Seal lips: Create a tight seal around the mouthpiece of the inhaler to prevent medication from escaping.
  • Timing: Start inhaling slowly just before pressing the inhaler's canister (for MDIs) or activating the dose (for DPIs and SMIs).
  • Deep breath: Inhale deeply and steadily, aiming to fill the lungs with medication.
  • Hold breath: Hold breath for 10 seconds to let the medication deposit in the lungs before exhaling slowly.
  • Spacer use: Spacers can improve medication delivery, especially for MDIs, by slowing down the medication and reducing the risk of oral thrush.

4. Cleaning and Maintenance:

  • Regular cleaning: Clean the inhaler regularly per the manufacturer's instructions to prevent blockages and ensure proper function.
  • Replace parts: Replace disposable parts such as mouthpieces or filters as recommended to maintain hygiene and effectiveness.
  • Storage: Store inhalers in a dry place, away from moisture and extreme temperatures, as this prevents the degradation of medications.

5. Troubleshooting Tips:

  • Clogged inhaler: If the inhaler becomes clogged, remove the canister (for MDIs) or check for blockages in the mouthpiece (for DPIs) and clear them using a clean, dry cloth or tissue.
  • Ineffective medication delivery: If you're not feeling the medication's effects, consult your healthcare provider to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment adjustment if necessary.

6. Patient Education and Follow-up:

  • Healthcare provider guidance: Seek guidance from your healthcare provider or a respiratory therapist on proper inhaler technique and usage.
  • Follow-up appointments: Schedule regular follow-up appointments to assess treatment effectiveness and address concerns or questions about inhaler use.

Regular communication with doctors and healthcare providers and adherence to their recommendations is crucial for ensuring the successful management of respiratory conditions.

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