Learning About Using Inhalers Correctly

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Why is an inhaler used?

An inhaler is used to send medicine right to your lungs. It's often used for asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and other lung diseases that make it hard to breathe.

Using an inhaler:

  • Sends most of the medicine straight to your lungs.
  • Provides a measured dose of the medicine.
  • Can help keep your symptoms under control.
  • Can limit long-term damage to your lungs.
  • Can be safer than if you took a pill or liquid medicine.
  • Works just as well, is easier to carry, and is faster to use than a nebulizer machine.

What devices can you use?

Different types of devices can send inhaled medicine straight to your lungs. They include metered-dose inhalers, dry powder inhalers, soft mist inhalers, and nebulizers. You may need to use more than one type of device.

How can you use it correctly?

Each kind of inhaler is used differently.

Make sure to save the manufacturer's instructions. Don't throw them away.

Pay attention to the instructions for your specific inhaler. Look for directions on:

  • Whether to prime or shake it.
  • Whether to use a spacer or mask.
  • Whether you have to load medicine into the inhaler.
  • How to use the inhaler to deliver the medicine. This includes how to hold it, when to breathe, and how long to hold your breath.
  • How to know how many doses are left.
  • How to clean it.
  • How to store it.
  • When to throw it away.

Why is it important to use it correctly?

Correct use of an inhaler:

  • Makes sure that the lungs get the full dose. This can mean fewer symptoms and better treatment.
  • Leads to fewer side effects. Sometimes people have side effects if the medicine hits the inside of the mouth instead of going into the lungs.
  • Saves money.

Ask your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or respiratory therapist to show you how to use the inhaler. They might ask you to show them how you use it, so they can help fix any problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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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.