Tips for getting the most out of your inhalers

April 6, 2013 J. Bruce Williams, MD

a woman sits in her home and uses her inhaler


In this article:

  • Knowing how to correctly use an asthma inhaler can help it last longer and ensure sufficient medication enters your system.

  • Using a spacer as well as a steroid inhaler in tandem with a rescue inhaler can help.

  • Allergists at Swedish can help demonstrate how to use inhalers efficiently and provide other guidance.

“Darn! My inhaler is out and I am going to have to call today, a Sunday, to get a refill…”

Spring is here! And that means asthma season is back, and with the nicer weather, pollen counts are high. Flowers are wonderful and the trees beautiful, but if you are like me, some of those plants have your number. The beautiful smells come with itchy eyes, sneezes and for some, a serious amount of wheezing.

Patients are reaching for their inhalers more often and sometimes getting into serious respiratory trouble, especially if their medication is running short. Inhalers are expensive, too, and so using them optimally for both your finances and your health.

Fortunately, a couple of tricks can really help maximize an asthma spray’s value.

The medication comes out fast and hard when you squeeze the canister, and it can be difficult to time your breath to inhale the dose well. In addition, the force release is so strong that a lot of misted drug can zoom right out of your mouth.

The trick is to use a "spacer." You can purchase one, but you can also make one out of a rolled-up piece of paper that's about an inch diameter. Tuck the sprayer in the far end, wrap your lips around the outside of the other end and take your leisure squeezing and breathing! The tube holds the mist in place for a few seconds, letting you better coordinate your inhalation and help more of drug you get to where it is needed.

The second tip is to use a steroid inhaler daily if you need your rescue inhaler more than a few times a week. The rescue inhaler will become less effective the more you use it if you don’t directly treat the inflammation in your bronchial tubes with a low dose of cortisone-type medication. The dose of the steroid inhaler is small and will not cause harm to the rest of your system if used according to directions, but it will keep your rescue medication working effectively.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about asthma or inhalers, contact the allergy and immunology department at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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