Woman with pharmacist

TREATMENT OPTIONS

People who have asthma or other lung diseases that make it hard to breathe may use an inhaler to get the medicine they need into their lungs. Inhaled medicine works faster than the same medicine in a pill. An inhaler also lets you take less medicine than you would if you took it as a pill.

Things to know before you start

  • Talk with your doctor, respiratory therapist, or pharmacist to make sure that you are using your inhaler the right way. It may help to practice in front of a mirror. Use the inhaler exactly as prescribed.
  • Keep your inhaler in a cool, dry place. Do not store your inhaler in the bathroom. Moisture in the air can cause the dry powder to clump together and clog the inhaler.
  • Keep track of how much medicine is in the inhaler. Some dry powder inhalers have dose counters that show how many doses are left in the inhaler. If your inhaler does not have a dose counter, your doctor or pharmacist can teach you how to keep track of how much medicine is left.
  • Follow your doctor's or pharmacist's instructions for cleaning your inhaler. Some powder may build up on the inhaler, but you don't need to clean it every day.
  • You may have other inhalers that you use for different medicines. If one of them is a metered-dose inhaler (which sprays out a mist of liquid medicine), you might be using a spacer with it. But you should not use a spacer with a dry powder inhaler.

Using an inhaler

You may have used a metered-dose inhaler in the past. But a dry powder inhaler is different. These instructions are for using a dry powder inhaler.

  • A dry powder inhaler lets you breathe medicine into your lungs quickly.
  • A dry powder inhaler is breath-activated. This means that when you breathe in through the inhaler, the inhaler releases the medicine into your lungs.
  • Dry powder inhalers come in different shapes and sizes. For some, you need to add the medicine to the inhaler each time you use it. Other dry powder inhalers come with a supply of medicine already in them. But for these, you will need to "load" each dose of medicine each time you use it. How you load a dose depends on the type of inhaler you have.

Follow these steps for using a dry powder inhaler (link opens in new window) :

  1. Check that you have the correct medicine. If you use several inhalers, put a label on each one so that you know which one to use at the right time.
  2. Remove the inhaler cap, if there is one.
  3. Add or load a dose of medicine as directed by your health care provider.
  4. Tilt your head back a little, and breathe out slowly and completely. Hold the inhaler away from your mouth when you breathe out. Do not breathe out into the inhaler. This can blow some of the powder out of the inhaler. Also, the moisture in your breath can cause the dry powder to clump together and clog the inhaler.
  5. Place the inhaler in your mouth, and close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.
  6. Inhale quickly and deeply through your mouth for 2 or 3 seconds. This pulls the powder from the inhaler into your lungs. After you have inhaled the powder, take the inhaler out of your mouth.
  7. Hold your breath for 10 seconds. This will let the medicine settle in your lungs. Then slowly breathe out through pursed lips. Make sure not to breathe out into the inhaler. Repeat steps 1 through 7 if you need to take a second dose.
  8. If you are using an inhaler with corticosteroid medicine, gargle and rinse out your mouth with water after you use the inhaler. Do not swallow the water. Swallowing the water will increase the chance that the medicine will get into your bloodstream. This may make you more likely to have side effects from the medicine.

Maintenance & Rescue Medications

Taking medicine can help control your asthma or your child's asthma. You or your child will feel good, breathe better, and be able to do more.

There are 2 types of asthma medicines:

Adult

  1. Maintenance medicines help prevent asthma. You take them every day–even if you feel fine.
  2. Rescue medicines treat asthma symptoms. You take them when you have a flare-up.

These medicines may come in a pill or an inhaler. An inhaler is plastic tube that you breathe into. Your doctor will help you choose which ones are best for you. Make sure you take them the way your doctor tells you to.

Use these tips to get the most out of your medicines:

  • Use a spacer or valved holding chamber with an inhaler. These plastic tubes go on the end of the inhaler. They help make sure you get the right amount of medicine. They also make it easy to take the medicine. Children younger than 5 may need to use a mask with these tools. To learn more about how to use them, click here (link opens in new window) .
  • Take your medicines the way the doctor tells you to.
  • Know which medicines to take and when.
  • Make a schedule for taking your medicines and put it on your fridge. It should list which medicines to take and when.
  • Take your medicine at the same time each day. Some ideas are before or after a meal or at a work break.

There are 2 types of asthma medicines:

Child

  1. Maintenance medicines help prevent asthma. Your child takes them every day—even if he or she feels fine.
  2. Rescue medicines treat asthma symptoms. Your child takes them when he or she has a flare-up.

These medicines may come in a pill or an inhaler. An inhaler is plastic tube that your child breathes into. Your doctor will help you choose which ones are best for your child. Make sure your child takes them the way your doctor tells you to.

Use these tips to get the most out of your child's medicines:

  • Use a spacer or valved holding chamber with an inhaler. These plastic tubes go on the end of the inhaler. They help make sure your child gets the right amount of medicine. They also make it easy to take the medicine. Children younger than 5 may need to use a mask with these tools. To learn more about how to use them, click here (link opens in new window) .
  • Give your child his or her medicines the way the doctor tells you to.
  • Know which medicines to give your child and when.
  • Make sure your child has a plan for taking medicine at school.
  • Make a schedule for your child's medicines and put it on your fridge. It should list which medicines to take and when.
  • Give your child medicine at the same time each day. Some ideas are before or after a meal or right after school.

Using a Spacer

Using a spacer with an MDI is the most efficient way to get the most medicine to your lungs. Make sure you understand the proper use of an:

Although using an MDI with a spacer is usually recommended, you can also use an MDI without a spacer. Learn the proper use of an:

If you are inhaling steroid medicine, rinse your mouth out with water after use. Don't swallow the water. Swallowing the water will increase the chance that the medicine will get into your bloodstream. This may increase the side effects of the medicine.

Some liquid may build up on the inhaler, but you may not need to clean the inhaler every day. Follow the directions for how and how often to clean the type of MDI you have.

Medication Checklist

  1. Talk with your doctor to be sure that you are using your MDI correctly. It might help if you practice using it in front of a mirror. Use the inhaler exactly as your doctor has prescribed.
  2. Check that you have the correct medicine. If you use several inhalers, put a label on each one so that you know which one to use at the right time.
  3. Check how much medicine is in the inhaler. Check the label of your inhaler medicine to see how many inhalations should be in the canister. If you know how many breaths you can take, you can replace your inhaler before you run out. Learn how to test your canister to estimate how much medicine is left. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you with this.
  4. Use a spacer if you have problems getting the correct timing when you use an inhaler or if you are using steroid medicine.