9 Steps For Using Metered-Dose Inhalers (MDIs) correctly

Using an inhaler can be tricky. In fact, more than half of people with asthma use their inhalers incorrectly. Below, our pharmacists give some tips for using your MDI inhaler correctly.

MDI inhalers are pressurized canisters containing prescription medications. They are respiratory medications often used for conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The point of this inhaler is to give a consistent dose of the medication with each spray. 

Follow these instructions to get the full benefit of your MDI inhaler:

Step 1: Shake it up

Shake the inhaler before you used it: 10-15 shakes is enough. This is especially important if your inhaler is new or you haven’t used it in a while. 

Step 2: Prime the inhaler

When using an HFA inhaler such as ProAir or Ventolin, prime the inhaler to get the optimal dose if you haven’t used the inhaler before or in a while. This means spraying the inhaler 1-2 times into the air to make sure it’s primed. These are sort of like test sprays.

Step 3: Use a spacer

A spacer is a clear, plastic tube that attaches to your inhaler at the mouthpiece to help the medication go directly into your lungs rather than into the air or your mouth. This helps people get their full dose rather. 

Step 4: Exhale!

Take a big exhale before your dose! Once you exhale, you can now take a slow, deeper inhalation. 

Step 5: Hold your breath

Hold your breath for 10 seconds. This helps the medication get deep into the lungs. 

Step 6: Stand up

Standing up helps you to fully exhale and gives you a little more power to inhale deeply. 

Step 7: Count your breaths!

This might seem like common sense but ONE BREATH PER PUFF! Take each puff separately. This is also important when using a spacer. Do not spray multiple puffs into the spacer. 

Step 8: Seal your lips

Seal your lips around the mouthpiece and don’t let your teeth or tongue get in the way. Aim for the back of your throat so that the medicine can get into your lungs. 

Step 9: Avoid the whistle

Hear a whistling sound? You’re inhaling too quickly. Exhale big, then take a slow and deep breath. 

Dr. James Kim

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