Helping Your Child Use a Metered-Dose Inhaler With a Mask Spacer: Care Instructions

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A metered-dose inhaler lets your child breathe a measured dose of medicine into their lungs. The best way to get the medicine into your child's lungs is to use a spacer. The spacer holds the dose of medicine so your child can use as many breaths as needed to inhale it.

A regular spacer has a mouthpiece that younger children have a hard time using. They can use a mask with a spacer instead. The mask spacer fits over the child's mouth and nose.

  • Read the instructions that come with the inhaler and the spacer. Inhalers come in different shapes, sizes, and doses. Each kind is used differently.

  • Understand how to use the inhaler and spacer. Ask the nurse, doctor, pharmacist, or respiratory therapist to make sure that you use them the right way.

  • Make sure to use the right inhaler at the right time. Label each inhaler if you have more than one.

  • Get inhaler refills before you run out. Use the dose counter to see how many doses are left.

  • Follow the instructions for cleaning the inhaler and the spacer. They will help you do it the right way for each inhaler.

  • Check the instructions to see if you need to prime the inhaler (get it ready) before use. If it needs priming, follow the instructions for how to do so.

How to help your child

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

Person shaking inhaler and removing 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.

Mask spacer placed securely over child's mouth and nose.

3. Place the mask spacer securely over your child's mouth and nose. Be sure to get a good seal. The mask must fit snugly, with no gaps between the mask and the skin.

Person pressing down on inhaler to spray medicine into spacer.

4. With the mask spacer in place, press down on the inhaler to spray 1 puff of medicine into the spacer.

Child breathing in and breathing out through mask spacer.

5. Keep the mask spacer in place, and have your child breathe in and out normally for 5 or 6 breaths.

Wristwatch with shading to show elapsed time.

6. If your child needs another puff of medicine, wait 1 minute between puffs.

Person putting cap on inhaler.

7. Replace the cap on the inhaler.

Child rinsing mouth and spitting into cup.

8. Have your child rinse their mouth with water if the inhaler has corticosteroids, such as fluticasone. (Controller inhalers usually have corticosteroids.) Do not let your child swallow the water.

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.