The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

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Are you using your asthma inhaler correctly?

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

We know through our research that most people with asthma in Australia are not using their inhalers properly. 

Too many people do not hold their inhaler correctly when preparing to use it, or do not breathe deeply or for long enough, or fail to coordinate their inhalation with the activation of their device.

Our research shows that as high as 90 percent of inhaler users could do better.

This needs to change.

Studies have shown that small improvements in technique can result in big reductions in asthma symptoms.

So how can we get people using their inhalers better?

Professor Sinthia Bosnic-Anticevich from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research has come up with some quick tips and links. Check out her tips below for the type of inhaler you use. And regardless of what type of inhaler you use, remember:

  1. Refresh your technique regularly – re-check the instructions on your inhaler.
  2. Talk to your pharmacist when you pick up your prescription. Your pharmacist may offer free inhaler checks and can certainly assist in making sure you are using your inhaler correctly. 
  3. See your doctor regularly to talk about inhaler medication and if there have been any changes to inhaler technology that might be relevant to you. Check if the inhaler you're using is still the right one for you.
  4. Check the 'how to' guides and videos linked at the end of this news item.
  5. Be mindful when you are using your inhaler. If you regularly check you're using your inhaler correctly, over time you'll develop good habits and proper technique will become natural.

When using a pressurised metered dose inhaler (pMDI) remember:

  • Shake the inhaler before using it.
  • Breathe in at the same time as you activate your inhaler. This can take quite a bit of practice.
  • Inhale slowly over 3 to 5 seconds and hold your breath as long as possible before breathing out.
  • Use a pMDI with a spacer, especially when using your controller/preventer. This helps the medication get deep into your lungs, rather than deposited in your mouth.

When using a dry powder inhaler, remember:

  • Keep your inhaler dry.
  • Don’t ever breathe into a dry powder inhaler. This includes watching out for humidity or dampness so leaving it out in the open in the bathroom is not a good idea.
  • Check that you are holding your inhaler in the right position when loading a dose. This may differ for different inhalers.
  • Breathe quickly and deeply to make sure the medication gets properly into your lungs.

When using your soft mist inhaler, remember:

  • Make sure you exhale completely and away from the device before you inhale.
  • Don't inhale too fast and activate your inhaler during the inhalation. Keep it slow and steady.
  • Hold your breath for as long as possible after inhaling (up to 10 seconds).

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