Steps for properly using asthma metered-dose inhalers or MDIs during an asthma attack. Tips to care for cleaning and maintaining inhalers.

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How to Properly Use Your Asthma Inhaler


(DECEMBER 2013) The prevalence of asthma has increased tremendously over the past few decades. According to the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC), 26 million U.S. adults and children suffered from asthma in 2011. Fortunately, acute symptoms of asthma have become much more treatable and most people recognize the most common triggers of an asthma attack.

By far, the most common treatment method for asthma is use of an inhaler. Metered-dose inhalers, or MDIs, are what we typically think of when we picture an asthma inhaler. They are pressurized canisters that administer medication in specific doses with a propellant spray. If you suffer from asthma, it’s likely you’ve been prescribed with one, but are you using it properly?

Steps for Using an MDI:

Step 1. Shake the inhaler three or four times before using it. Then, remove the cap of the inhaler.

Step 2. Exhale, away from your inhaler.

Step 3. Bring the inhaler up to your mouth and place it between your teeth. Once it is in between your teeth, you can close your mouth around it.

Step 4. Slowly start to breathe in and press the top of the inhaler once. Continue to breathe in slowly until you have taken a full and complete breath.

Step 5. Remove the inhaler and hold your breath for about 10 seconds, then exhale again and breathe normally.

Be sure to wait at least 30 seconds between doses, and if you do require a second dose, repeat all five of the steps above.

After using your MDI, it’s recommended you rinse out your mouth and record each time you have taken a dose. Store your inhaler at room temperature, and clean it at least once a week to prevent medication buildup.

How to Properly Clean Your Inhaler

Cleaning and properly maintaining your inhaler isn’t difficult. It’s best to simply follow the cleaning instructions that came with your MDI. The most important thing to remember is to never wash the metal canister or put it in water – only wash the plastic parts.

  1. Remove the metal canister from the inhaler.
  2. Clean all plastic parts thoroughly with mild soap and water.
  3. Allow all plastic parts to completely dry. It’s best to leave them out over night to ensure that no moisture remains.
  4. Re-assemble the MDI and test it by releasing a single puff into the air.

Be sure to check the expiration date on your MDI before using it, and if you have any questions or trouble using the device, check with your doctor – she should be able to recommend tips or possibly another device.

Severe asthma attacks can be more than your inhaler can handle. In fact, you may not be able to communicate during an extreme attack. Wearing a medical identification bracelet that indicates that you have asthma can help medical personnel quickly deliver the treatment you need.