Inhaler devices deliver medicine directly into the lungs. This is different from most pills or shots, which send medicine into the whole body. It is important for you to use your inhaler correctly so the medicine works best.

Are all inhalers the same?

There are different types of inhaler devices. One main type is called a “metered-dose inhaler.” These have a spray like an aerosol can and usually require you to press down on a canister or button at the same time you are breathing in. Usually you need to breathe in slowly and deeply. Most require shaking before use and “priming” (one or more test sprays).

Another main inhaler device is called a “dry-powder inhaler.” These usually require you to breathe in quickly and deeply to pull the powdered medicine from the inhaler into your lungs. They should not be shaken. There are different instructions for different inhalers, so it is very important for you to know how to use the specific inhaler that’s prescribed for you.

How can I learn to use my inhaler?

Your prescriber or pharmacist can show you the exact steps for using your inhaler. He or she can tell you whether or not to shake the inhaler before use, if it needs to be primed or cleaned, how to store it, and how to keep track of how many doses of medicine are left. You’ll also find instructions in the packaging that have all of this information.

Consider bringing your inhaler to the pharmacy or to appointments with your prescriber. You can show how you use it. Then your pharmacist or prescriber can give you tips if you are having any problems.

What do I need to know if I use more than one inhaler?

If you use more than one inhaler regularly, it is important to use them in a certain order. This will help them work better.

• One inhaler relaxes and opens the airways in your lungs (bronchodilator).

• Another inhaler decreases swelling in the airways of your lungs (steroid).

• Always use the bronchodilator first.

• After using the steroid inhaler, rinse your mouth with water and spit it out.

 

How do I keep from running out of my inhaler?

Make sure you always have enough medicine in your inhaler. Most inhalers have dose counters that count down each time you use a dose. If your inhaler does not have a dose counter, you’ll need to keep track of how many doses you have used. Some inhalers expire a few weeks or months after they are removed from the manufacturer’s packaging, such as a foil pouch. Your pharmacist will tell you the last date you should use these inhalers.

Don’t wait until your last dose is used or until the last day your inhaler is good to order a new one. Give yourself enough time so you are never without these important medicines.

How should I store my inhaler?

Always keep your inhaler at room temperature. If you are going out and may need your inhaler, keep it with you (on your person). Do not leave your inhaler where it might get too hot or too cold, such as in the car.