How To Use An MDI Metered-Dose Inhaler
MDIs look the same on the outside, but each brand is distinctly different in operation and maintenance. Check the patient instruction sheet that came with your inhaler for details on using, cleaning, priming (getting ready to use) and maintaining the device.
Studies show that many patients do not use their inhaler properly, and therefore do not get the expected and needed full dose of medication. You must inhale the spray quickly enough to prevent it from landing on your tongue or inside your cheek, yet slowly enough to let it get deep into your lungs.
Basic step-by-step instructions:
1. Remove the MDI mouthpiece cap and look at the tiny exit hole where the medication comes out of the canister. It should be free of debris or white powder. If it’s not, follow package instructions to thoroughly clean the inhaler.
2. Shake the inhaler if instructed in your patient information sheet. This will mix the crystalline powder medication with propellants and other ingredients inside the canister to ensure the right blend. Note: A few brands of MDI (including Alvesco and QVAR) are blended differently and don’t need shaking.
3. Prime the inhaler if necessary. When the MDI is new and never been used or hasn’t been used in a while, the ingredients may separate. Priming (releasing the required number of sprays into the air) before use ensures the dose you inhale contains the labeled amount of medication.
4. Stand or sit up straight and breathe out completely. Empty your lungs as much as possible to give you room to inhale the medication slowly and deeply.
5. Hold the inhaler upright with the mouthpiece at the bottom and the top pointing up. Position it as instructed by
your physician or the medication’s patient instruction sheet. Some recommend holding the inhaler about 1-2 inches away from your open mouth; others recommend putting the MDI mouthpiece between your teeth and closing your lips tightly around it. Be sure to keep your tongue out of the way of the spray.
6. Begin to inhale slowly, then activate the inhaler a split-second later. If you wait too long, you won’t have enough breath left to inhale the medicine deep into your small airways.
7. Continue inhaling slowly for 3-5 seconds, until your lungs are full.
8. Hold your breath for 10 seconds, if possible. (You can take the inhaler out of your mouth.) When you hold your breath, you allow the tiny particles of medication to settle on the surface of your airways.
9. Exhale slowly.
10. Repeat steps 2 through 9 if your Asthma Action Plan says to take a second dose. (Skip step 3; your inhaler would not need to be primed again so soon.)
11. Replace the cap on your inhaler and store it where it won’t be exposed to moisture or extreme temperature changes. Check your patient instruction sheet to see if your inhaler needs to be stored in an upright position; some do.
12. Clean the inhaler according to its patient instructions, usually weekly. If using water, leave time for the inhaler to air dry. Holding chambers also need to be washed according to instructions.
Watch a video of how to use an MDI
Read More: Dose Counter: Asthma Inhalers You Can Count On