Three Basic Types Of Inhalers And How To Use It Properly

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Asthma can be a debilitating illness. You never know when your asthma symptoms will attack. For people with asthma, bronchodilators or inhalers are life-savers. Bronchodilators are medications that help the muscle bands relax when they tighten around the airways. They basically open the airway so that more air move in and out of the lungs. To put it simply, inhalers help you breathe more easily when you’re having asthma attacks.

A variety of inhalers are available in the market and it’s important that you know what’s best for you in order to effectively control your asthma symptoms. To find the best inhaler for your asthma, you have to know the correct medication and the type of inhaler that suits your needs. Before purchasing an inhaler, it’s better that you ask your doctor or any healthcare provider which type of inhaler can help you prevent or treat asthma attacks.

There are three basic types of inhalers that people normally use: Metered-Dose Inhalers, Dry Powder Inhaler and Soft Mist Inhalers. Learn the differences and which type is best for you!


3 Basic Types of Inhalers

Metered-Dose Inhalers (MDI)

Inhaled respiratory medications are usually taken by a device called a metered-dose inhaler or MDI. The MDI is a pressurized canister of medicine in a plastic holder with a mouthpiece. When sprayed, it gives a reliable, consistent dose of medication. It is commonly used to treat breathing difficulties related to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory illnesses.

Metered-dose inhalers are portable and convenient. They are more cost-effective than dry powder inhalers. No preparation is needed when using this type of inhaler. However, patients may have difficulties using them because the patient may need to combine a deep breath with the pushing motion that activates the device. One of the disadvantages of this inhaler is that it has no dose counters. You need to shake the inhaler and estimate how much dose is left.

For those who use MDIs that don’t have counters, you’ll have to track the number of doses that you’ve used so that you’ll know when to purchase one when your medication runs low.

It is important that you use your inhaler correctly in order to receive the right amount of medicine. Here are the steps in using your metered-dose inhalers:

  • Remove the cap and hold the inhaler in an upright position.
  • If your doctor recommends that you use a spacer, then you may do so. A spacer protects your throat from irritation when you inhale the medication.
  • Stand or sit up straight and shake the inhaler.
  • Press the inhaler to release the medicine and start breathing slowly. Breathe in slowly for 3-5 seconds.
  • Repeat puffs as advised by your doctor. Wait for at least a minute before you take your second puff.

Dry Powder Inhaler (DPI)

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, a dry powder inhaler (DPI) is a type of inhaler that is commonly used to deliver medications such as inhaled corticosteroids into the lungs. This type of medication is breath-activated. Unlike the metered-dose inhaler where you have to push the medication into your lungs, dry powder inhalers release medicine when you take a fast, deep breath in through the inhaler. There are multiple-dose devices that can hold up to 200 doses and there are those that are single dosed, which you can fill with a capsule before each treatment.

Dry powder inhalers (DPI’s) are generally easier to use than the MDI and cause fewer irritant effects. However, a few patients develop poor inhalation techniques with continued use of dry powder inhalers. According to a journal published by the National Library of Medicine, the inspiratory flow is necessary to achieve a therapeutic effect when it comes to using DPIs. The majority of patients with severe acute asthma can achieve a peak inspiratory flow sufficient to inhale from a DPI. Dry powder inhalers cannot be used with spacers which can be a disadvantage in patients who inhale large doses of medication. It is also important to note that the DPI is more expensive than the MDI.

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 while there are other dry powder inhalers that come with a supply of medicine already in them. Here are the steps on how to use a dry powder inhaler correctly:

  • Remove the inhaler cap, if there is one.
  • Add a dose of medicine as instructed by your doctor.
  • Hold the inhaler away from your mouth while you breathe out. It is important to remember to not breathe out into the inhaler as this can blow some of the powder medicine out of the inhaler.
  • Place the inhaler’s mouthpiece in your mouth. Inhale quickly and through your mouth for 2 or 3 seconds. After you have inhaled the powder, take the inhaler out of your mouth.
  • Hold your breath for 10 seconds and let the medicine settle in your lungs. Follow these steps when you take a second dose.

Soft Mist Inhaler (SMI)

A soft mist inhaler is a device that releases a slow-moving mist when inhaled. This type of inhaler contains liquid formulations similar to those in nebulizers. It works well for reaching the small airways in the lungs. Soft mist inhalers have an indicator on the side of the device which tells you how many doses you have left. Unlike the other inhalers, you don’t need a spacer when using an SMI.

When a patient uses SMI, more of the medicine gets into their lungs than with an MDI or DPI. Because of this, you can use a lower dose. The mist from the inhaler comes out slowly which means that the device doesn’t require any patient coordination. One disadvantage of this device is that you might find it difficult to load the dose into the device.

Here’s how you use a soft mist inhaler:

  1. Open the cap after you follow some specific instructions on how to prepare the inhaler before using it.
  2. Breathe out slowly.
  3. Close your mouth around the mouthpiece. Make sure that you don’t close the air vents on the side of the inhaler.
  4. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your mouth while you press the dose release button.
  5. Inhale the mist.
  6. Hold your breath for 10 seconds and slowly breathe out. Follow your doctor’s instructions on how many doses to take.


Final Thoughts

Choosing the type of asthma inhaler that best meets your needs is important to effectively control your asthma symptoms. To know more about what kind of inhaler you should use, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider. Dr. Paul Jantzi is a board-certified allergist and immunologist, provides allergy treatments in Texas with office locations in Bastrop, Brenham, College Station, Columbus, Giddings, and La Grange. Schedule a meeting with him and let him help you with all of your allergy and asthma-related issues.

Disclaimer: Information on this website is not intended to be used in place of your professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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