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Using an asthma inhaler correctly is a tricky, multi-step process. If you don’t do it just right, you cannot get the full benefit of the drugs, potentially making the asthma worse or making it appear as though the medication isn’t helping.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Perri Klass writes for The New York Times, a new study shows that many patients are not taking their asthma medication correctly. In particular, both kids and adults alike aren’t waiting the necessary full minute between puffs.
How to correctly use an asthma inhaler
1. Take off the cap and shake the inhaler for three to five seconds. Connect the inhaler to the spacer. The spacer is a chamber between the inhaler and the patient’s mouth that holds the drug suspended and makes it easier to breathe it in. Dr. Francine M. Ducharme, a professor of pediatrics and social and preventive medicine at the University of Montreal, told the Times that both children and adults should use a spacer “to make sure the drug is properly inhaled into the lungs rather than deposited in the mouth.”
2. Exhale completely and put the mouthpiece in or mask around your mouth correctly, forming a tight seal.
3. Release the medication from the inhaler by pressing the canister down and breathe in slowly and deeply through the spacer. (If your spacer has a whistle feature, you do not want to hear the whistle; a whistle means you’re breathing in too quickly.) Hold your breath for 10 seconds and exhale again.
4. Wait one minute before repeating the process.
5. Rinse out your mouth or brush your teeth after each use.
Even if you’ve taught your child the proper inhalation method—and even if you think they’ve got the technique down—you should continue to supervise them whenever possible to make sure they’re not taking any shortcuts.
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