Main Content
Living Healthy

How to Use a Metered Dose Inhaler

July 19, 2019

People with certain respiratory conditions often depend on metered dose inhalers. These devices help deliver medicine to the lungs of those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory problems. There are several types of inhalers, depending on individual needs, but most are used in a similar fashion. And all inhalers need to be cleaned and properly stored to ensure they continue to function correctly.

Metered dose inhaler basics

Metered dose inhalers are pressurized devices equipped with a plastic holder and a mouthpiece. When you push down on the pressurized canister, the inhaler produces a consistent, measured dose of medicine. Often, these inhalers are used with a spacer, which attaches to the mouthpiece. Spacers deliver the medication more directly to the lungs and reduce the amount of medication that settles in your mouth and throat. Inhalers can be prescribed to serve one of a couple purposes:

  • Control inhalers are used on a regular basis — usually once or twice daily — to keep symptoms under control so flare-ups don't occur. Use a control inhaler whether or not you’re feeling symptoms.
  • Rescue inhalers help with short-term symptom relief, when you’re either having a flare-up or when you know you’re going to be around asthma triggers.
How to use your inhaler

Step one
Shake the inhaler well and remove the cap.

Step two
Hold the inhaler up with your index finger on top and your thumb underneath as a support. If you’re using a spacer, you might also want to use your other hand as a support.

Step three
Breathe out completely and put the mouthpiece between your teeth with your lips wrapped around it. Make sure your tongue isn’t blocking the opening and hold your chin up.

Step four
Press down on the top of the inhaler and breathe in through your mouth slowly for 3–6 seconds.

Step five
Hold your breath for 5–10 seconds to let the medicine reach deep into your lungs, then breathe out slowly through your mouth.

Step six
Rinse your mouth with water, gargle and spit to help reduce any possible side effects from the medicine.

Maintaining your inhaler

Inhalers are pretty low-maintenance devices, so long as you remember a few tips:

  • Keep it capped. Put the cap back on the mouthpiece after every use. This keeps dust and dirt off the mouthpiece and also prevents anything from getting into the mouthpiece and blocking the medicine.
  • Keep it clean. Remove the mouthpiece (and spacer, if you have one) from the canister once a week or so, rinse both under warm water (no soap or detergent) and let them air dry.
  • Keep it safe. Avoid storing your inhaler in extreme heat or cold. The canister is under pressure, so it could explode in temperatures above 120 degrees °F. And extreme temperatures also can change the composition of the medicine.