How to Use Your Metered-Dose Inhaler

Medication must be used correctly to be effective. Devices used for inhaled medications include a variety of pressurized, Metered-Dose Inhalers (MDIs), Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs), Breath-Actuated MDIs and Nebulizers. Each one has different steps for proper use. This educational handout deals only with Metered-Dose Inhalers.

Pressurized Metered-Dose Inhalers

Currently the most commonly used, pressurized metered-dose inhalers deliver a measured amount of medication and produce excellent results when used correctly. Metered-dose inhalers are portable and less time consuming. Because the MDI is pressurized, a spacer or holding chamber device should always be used too effectively administer the medication.

Spacers or Holding Chambers

Spacers or holding chambers make it easier for your child to use a metered-dose inhaler and breathe in the medication. Spacer devices allow a discharge of medication into a holding chamber where the medication particles are held in suspension for 3 to 5 seconds. During this time, your child can more easily breathe in the drug with one or more breathes and not worry about coordination.

Spacers increase the efficiency of inhalers. The use of spacers:

  • Makes it possible to give inhaled medicines to children and patients with poor coordination. (Spacers with one-way valves help young children use MDIs. Infants and toddlers can use spacers with mask attached instead of a mouthpiece.)
  • Reduces the local side effects (cough and oral candidiasis) from inhaled steroids and of systemic absorption because non- breathable particles are deposited in the spacer’s chamber rather than the mouth. Inhalers come in different sizes (number of actuations). There is no reliable way to determine how much medication is left in the canister. Use the table below to see how long an inhaler lasts and keep a calendar.
# Sprays2 Sprays/Day4 Sprays/Day6 Sprays/Day8 Sprays/Day
6030 days15 daysN/AN/A
100N/A15 days16 days12 days
104N/A25 days17 days13 days
112N/A26 days18 days14 days
12060 days30 days20 days15 days
200100 days50 days33 days25 days
240N/A60 days40 days30 days

If the medication is taken as prescribed, the canister should be discarded when empty and a refill on the medication should be obtained. Please allow for ample delay time while prescription is being filled.

Special Instructions With a Brand New Spacer/Holding Chamber

Due to a static charge, the spacer/holding chamber must be primed with 8-10 puffs of a placebo MDI or Albuterol MDI. If this is not done prior to use, the medication will be attracted to the sides and will not be delivered into the lungs. This priming only needs to be done once.

The Steps to Using a MDI With a Spacer

  1. Attach the MDI to the spacer and vigorously shake the MDI/spacer unit.
  2. Exhale normally, then place mouthpiece in your mouth.
  3. Actuate the MDI one time only, never put more than one puff in the spacer at one time.
  4. With a good seal around the mouthpiece, inhale the mist from the spacer.
  5. Use a slow and deep inspiration.
  6. Hold your breath for 5-10 seconds (count 5 elephants).
  7. Exhale slowly through your nose.
  8. Wait 30 seconds then repeat as prescribed.
  9. Rinse out mouth with water or brush your teeth. Do not swallow water.

The Steps to Using a MDI With a Spacer and a Mask

  1. Attach the MDI and mask to the spacer.
  2. Vigorously shake the MDI.
  3. Position the mask over nose and under mouth and establish a seal.
  4. Actuate MDI one time only, never put more than one puff in the spacer at one time.
  5. Have mist inhaled from spacer with 5-8 breaths.
  6. Keep mask on face for inhalation and exhalation.
  7. If there is a proper seal, a hollow sound will be made and the valve will open and close.
  8. Wait 30 seconds.
  9. Repeat as prescribed.
  10. Rinse out mouth with water and wipe off face after administration of medication. Do not swallow water.

A Technique Without a Spacer Can be Taught, But is Not Recommended

  1. Remove the cap and hold the inhaler upright.
  2. Vigorously shake the inhaler.
  3. Tilt head back slightly and breathe out normally and fully.
  4. Open mouth and place the inhaler mouthpiece approximately two – three fingers away.
  5. Activate the inhaler and breathe in as the medication is dispensed.
  6. Hold breath for 5-10 seconds.
  7. Exhale through the nose.
  8. Wait 30 seconds.
  9. Repeat as prescribed.
  10. Rinse mouth (even more important without spacer use). Do not swallow water.