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Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Breathing Problems: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler

Breathing Problems: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler

Overview

A metered-dose inhaler lets you breathe medicine into your lungs quickly. Inhaled medicine works faster than the same medicine in a pill. An inhaler allows you to take less medicine than you would need if you took it as a pill.

"Metered-dose" means that the inhaler gives a measured amount of medicine each time you use it. A metered-dose inhaler gives medicine in the form of a liquid mist.

Your doctor may want you to use a spacer with your inhaler. A spacer is a chamber that you attach to the inhaler. The chamber holds the medicine before you inhale it. That way, you can inhale the medicine in as many breaths as you need. Doctors recommend using a spacer with most metered-dose inhalers. This is even more important when using corticosteroid medicines.

How to use the inhaler

How to use the inhaler

Getting started

To get started:

  • Talk with your doctor to be sure you are using your inhaler the right way. It might help if you practice using it in front of a mirror. Use the inhaler exactly as prescribed.
  • Check that you have the correct medicine. If you use more than one inhaler, put a label on each one. This will let you know which one to use at the right time.
  • Keep track of how much medicine is in the inhaler. Check the label to see how many doses are in the container. If you know how many puffs you can take, you can replace the inhaler before you run out. Ask your health care provider how you can keep track of how much medicine is left.
  • Talk to your doctor about using a spacer with your inhaler. Spacers make it easier to get the medicine into your lungs. You may need a spacer if you are using corticosteroid medicines. A spacer can also help if you have problems pressing the inhaler and breathing in at the same time.
  • If you are using a corticosteroid inhaler, gargle and rinse out your mouth with water after use. Do not swallow the water. Swallowing the water will increase the chance that the medicine will get into your bloodstream. This may make it more likely that you will have side effects.

Using the inhaler with a spacer

Follow these steps for using a metered-dose inhaler with a spacer.

Person shaking inhaler and removing its cap.

1. Shake the inhaler for 5 seconds. Remove the cap.

Mouthpiece of inhaler being placed into spacer.

2. Hold the inhaler upright with the mouthpiece at the bottom. Then place the mouthpiece of the inhaler into the spacer.

Person exhaling while holding inhaler and spacer near mouth.

3. Stand or sit up straight. With the spacer a short distance from your mouth, breathe out slowly and completely.

Person with mouthpiece of spacer in mouth.

4. Place the spacer's mouthpiece in your mouth. Close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece and keep your tongue away from the opening.

Person breathing in through mouthpiece while pressing down on inhaler and then exhaling.

5. Press down on the inhaler to spray 1 puff of medicine into the spacer. Then start breathing in slowly and deeply. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. Remove the spacer's mouthpiece from your mouth. Then breathe out slowly.

Wristwatch with shading to show elapsed time.

6. If you need another puff of medicine, wait 1 minute between puffs.

Person replacing caps on inhaler and spacer.

7. Remove the inhaler from the spacer, and replace their caps.

Person rinsing mouth and spitting into cup.

8. Rinse your mouth with water if the inhaler has corticosteroids, such as fluticasone. Do not swallow the water.

Using the inhaler without a spacer

Follow these steps for using a metered-dose inhaler without a spacer.

Person shaking inhaler and removing cap.

1. Shake the inhaler for 5 seconds. Remove the cap.

Person holding inhaler.

2. Hold the inhaler upright with the mouthpiece at the bottom.

Person holding inhaler and exhaling.

3. Stand or sit up straight. Breathe out slowly and completely.

Person with lips closed around inhaler's mouthpiece.

4. Put the inhaler's mouthpiece in your mouth, and close your lips tightly around it. Keep your tongue away from the opening.

Person breathing in through inhaler and then exhaling.

5. Take one slow, deep breath while pressing the canister 1 time to release a puff of medicine. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds.

Wristwatch with shading to show elapsed time.

6. If you need another puff of medicine, wait 1 minute between puffs.

Person replacing cap on inhaler.

7. Replace the cap on the inhaler.

Person swishing water in mouth and then spitting into cup.

8. Rinse your mouth with water if the inhaler has corticosteroids, such as fluticasone. Do not swallow the water.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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Related Links

Breathing Problems: Helping a Child Use a Metered-Dose Inhaler and Mask Spacer

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