Asthma – How to Use A Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI)
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
A metered-dose inhaler is a small, hand-held device filled with medicine. It helps deliver a certain amount of medicine through your mouth and into your lungs. It is commonly used to treat breathing difficulties related to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory problems.
Path to improved health
Each inhaler consists of a pressurized canister of medication and a mouthpiece. Pressing down on the inhaler releases a mist of medicine that you breathe into your lungs. So that your airways receive the right amount of medicine, it is important to use your inhaler correctly. Read and follow all instructions that come with your inhaler.
Here are the steps to correctly use your inhaler:
- Remove the cap and hold the inhaler upright.
- If your healthcare provider recommends, use a spacer (a hollow, plastic chamber) to filter the medicine between the inhaler and your mouth. The chamber protects your throat from irritation from the medicine
- Stand or sit up straight.
- Shake the inhaler.
- Tilt your head back slightly and breathe out.
- Bring the puffer to your mouth. Place it in your mouth between your teeth and close your mouth around it
- Spacers are useful for all patients, especially young children and older adults
- Press down on the inhaler to release the medicine as you start to breathe in slowly.
- Breathe in slowly for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 10 seconds to allow medicine to go deeply into your lungs.
- Repeat puffs as directed. Wait 30 seconds, shake your inhaler again, and repeat steps above
Some inhalers (steroid) also recommend rinsing your mouth out with water and gargling with water (spit out the water) after use.
NOTE: These instructions are for a metered-dose inhaler only. Inhaled dry powder capsules are used differently. To use a dry powder inhaler, close your mouth tightly around the mouthpiece of the inhaler and breathe in quickly. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions about how to take your medicine.
Things to consider
It’s important to keep track of how much medicine you’ve used so you can plan ahead and replace your inhaler before you run out of medicine. One way to do this is to write a refill date on the canister itself. Use the following method to figure out when you’ll need to get a refill:
- Start with a brand new inhaler. Divide the number of puffs in the canister–the canister will usually have this number printed on it–by the number of puffs you take each day. The number you get will be the number of days the canister should last. (For example, if you take 4 puffs each day from a 200-puff canister, you will need to have a new canister every 50 days.)
- Using a calendar, count forward that many days to see when your medicine will run out. So you won’t run out of the medicine that you use every day, choose a day 1 or 2 days before this date to have your prescription refilled.
- Using a permanent marker, write the refill date on the canister, and on your calendar.
- If you use your inhaler for rescue medicine, you probably won’t be using it regularly enough for this method to work. In that case, ask your healthcare provider if they will write a prescription for two inhalers at a time. Then get your prescription filled when the first inhaler is empty. This way, you’ll always have enough rescue medicine on hand when you need it most.
FOR MORE INFORMATION