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Metered-Dose Inhaler, How to Use: Teen Version

What is a metered-dose inhaler?

A metered-dose inhaler (MDI) is a hand-held device that releases a mist of medicine. Metered dose inhalers contain a gas that helps the medicine get into your child’s lungs. Inhalers help send the medicine directly to your child’s lungs as he takes a deep breath.

A device called a spacer can be used with the inhaler. A spacer is a special bag or plastic tube that is attached to the inhaler. Spacers help when it is hard to press the inhaler at the same time that you breathe in the medicine. The spacer holds medicine in the bag or tube and:

  • Helps you to breathe at your own pace
  • Helps more medicine to reach your lungs
  • Keeps medicine from just going into the air

Spacers can be used with or without a mask. Some spacers are made for just one type of inhaler.

Several kinds of medicines are available as metered-dose inhalers, including:

  • Quick-relief medicines, also called reliever, or rescue medicines. These medicines are used as needed to treat asthma attacks. They are one kind of bronchodilator. Bronchodilators are medicines that make breathing easier.
  • Long-term control medicines, also called controller medicines. By taking this medicine regularly every day, it helps to control your symptoms. They do not provide quick relief of wheezing in acute asthma attacks. These are also called bronchodilators.
  • Steroid medicines, also called asthma controller medicines, because by taking them regularly every day, they help to control your symptoms. They block some of the chemicals that cause irritation and swelling in your body. By lessening the swelling, you will have fewer symptoms and be able to breathe better.

When you are using more than one type of inhaler, you will usually use the bronchodilator first.

How do I use the inhaler?

There are several ways to use an inhaler. Talk with your provider or pharmacist about this.

  1. Shake the inhaler well.
  2. If the inhaler has not been used before or if the inhaler has not been used for a while, you must prime the inhaler. Do this by spraying 2 or 3 sprays of the medicine into the air. Each time you use the inhaler, the next dose is drawn into a chamber inside the inhaler. If the inhaler has not been used or sits for a long time without being used, some of the medicine leaks out of the holding area. This means you will not get the full dose of medicine the next time it is used. Priming the inhaler makes sure that you get the full dose of the medicine.
  3. Hold the inhaler upright so the mouthpiece is at the bottom.
  4. For many inhalers the best way to get the medicine into the lungs is to hold the mouthpiece 1 to 2 inches (about 2 to 3 finger widths) in front of an open mouth. The best way to use some other types of inhalers is to place the inhaler mouthpiece directly into your mouth and close your lips snugly around it. Use the inhaler as your healthcare provider instructs.
  5. Breathe out normally.
  6. Press the inhaler down once so it releases a spray of medicine into your mouth while you breathe in slowly. (One spray is called a puff.) Continue breathing in as slowly and deeply as possible.
  7. Hold your breath for 10 seconds or as long as is comfortable. This gives the medicine time to reach your airways.
  8. Breathe out slowly.

If you need to take more than one puff, wait one minute before taking the next dose. Shake the medicine again and repeat steps 3 through 8 for another puff. Take the number of puffs prescribed by your healthcare provider.

If you are taking an inhaled steroid medicine rinse your mouth with water after the last dose and spit the water out.

How do I clean the inhaler?

Wash the plastic case for the inhaler once a week with soapy tap water. Rinse well and let the parts air dry.

Do not store your inhaler in places that may get very hot or cold (like a car).

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-07-25
Last reviewed: 2012-03-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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