Inhalers send medicine directly to your lungs. This is different from most pills or shots, which send medicine to the whole body. Instructions are not the same for all of the different types of inhalers. Be sure you understand how to use each of your inhalers.

How can I learn to use my inhaler?

Your pharmacist or prescriber can show you how to use your inhaler. Bring your inhalers to the pharmacy or to prescriber appointments. You can show them how you use it. Then they can give you tips, in case you are having any problems. Ask your pharmacist or prescriber these questions:

  • Do I need to shake my inhaler before using it?
  • Do I need to “prime” my inhaler with test sprays? If so, how and when?
  • Should I clean my inhaler? If so, with what (e.g., dry cloth, damp cloth, running water)?

Are all inhalers the same?

No, they are not. See the differences between three common types of inhalers. Have your health care provider fill in the names of the inhalers you’re using below.

Metered-dose Inhalers: Dry-powder Inhalers: Soft-mist Inhalers:
Shake most before use Do not shake Do not shake
Prime before first use No need to prime Prime before first use
Slow deep breath Quick deep breath Slow deep breath

What do I need to know if I use more than one inhaler?

It is important to use your inhalers in the right order. This will help them work better.

  • Bronchodilators relax and open your airways.
    • Always use the bronchodilator first.
  • Steroids decrease swelling in your airways.
    • After using your steroid inhaler, rinse your mouth with water and spit it out.

Don’t run out of your inhaler.

  • Make sure you have enough medicine in your inhaler.
    • Most inhalers have counters to keep track of how many doses are left.
    • If your inhaler does not have a counter, be sure to keep track of how many doses you have used.
  • Don’t remove inhalers from original packaging until you need them.
    • Some expire a few weeks or months after removal from the foil pouch.
    • Your pharmacist will tell you the last date you should use these inhalers.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to reorder your inhaler.
    • Give yourself enough time so you don’t go without these important medicines.

How should I store my inhaler?

  • Keep inhalers at room temperature.
  • If you are going out and may need your inhaler, keep it with you (on your person).
  • Do not leave your inhaler in your car. It might get too hot or too cold.

[This blog post may not cover all possible information. It does not replace the need for professional medical care. Always follow the instructions from your healthcare provider.]

Pharmacist’s Letter 2017; 33(1):330106