How to use Your Breathing Device

How to use Your Breathing Device


If your doctor has prescribed a breathing device such as an inhaler or a “spacer”, it is important that you know how to use these devices correctly. Proper use will ensure that your medication gets down into your lungs where it can work to treat your lung condition.

This information will describe how to correctly use inhalers and other breathing devices. It will also help you to avoid common errors in your technique. If you have any questions about this information or your condition, be sure to ask your doctor or an appropriate healthcare professional.

How to Use a Metered-Dose Inhaler (MDI)

A metered-dose inhaler contains medicine and propellant in the form of a fine spray. It is used to inhale the medications used to treat asthma and other breathing problems. Each puff from a MDI gives the same amount of medication.

To receive the most benefit from medication in a MDI you must get the medication deep into your lungs. Even with proper inhalation technique, only about 10 percent of the medication reaches the airways. Using a “spacer device” can increase the amount of medication that reaches your lungs.

A) Using a MDI with a spacer device

A spacer device is a chamber that attaches to any metered-dose inhaler ordered by your doctor. There are several types of spacer devices available. The most common brands are the Ventahaler and the Aerochamber. Spacer devices can be purchased at most local pharmacies.



How to use the MDI and Spacer Device:

  1. Take the plastic cap off the mouthpieces of the inhaler and the spacer device.


  1. Shake the inhaler well for several seconds.


  1. Fit the inhaler into the rubber end of the spacer.


4.      Breathe out slowly and fully. Tilt your head back slightly.


5.      Place the spacer in your mouth and close your lips around the mouthpiece.


6.      Push down on the canister once to release the medication. At the same time, take a slow deep breath in.

7.      Continue to breathe in slowly. Hold it for as long as it is comfortable (aiming for up to 10 seconds). If you have trouble taking in a long deep breath, you can continue to breathe normally for 3 to 4 breaths through the mouthpiece. TIP: If you hear a whistle sound from the Aerochamber, you are breathing too fast. Slow down your breathing. This will allow more medication to reach your lungs.

o        Breathe out gently through your nose.

o        If you need more than one puff of medication, wait at least 30 seconds before repeating steps 2 to 8.

  1. Remove the spacer device from the inhaler.

B) Using a MDI without a spacer device: When a spacer is not available, follow these steps carefully:

  1. Remove the cap from the inhaler mouthpiece


2.      Shake the inhaler well for several seconds before each use


  1. Hold the inhaler upright.
  2. Breathe out slowly and fully.
  3. Tilt your head back slightly.
  4. Two methods can be used for positioning the inhaler before use:
    • Close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece. Be sure the mouthpiece is placed over your tongue and pointed towards the back of your mouth


7.      OR


    • Hold the mouthpiece in front of your widely opened mouth (about the width of two fingers).


8.      Begin to take in a slow, deep breath and push down on the canister once to release the medication. TIP: Keep your tongue down so it does not block the spray of the medication.

9.      Continue to breathe in slowly. Hold it for as long as it is comfortable (aiming for up to 10 seconds).

10.  Take the inhaler away from your mouth and breathe out gently through your nose

If you need more than one puff of medication, wait for at least 30 seconds before repeating steps 2 to 8.

Common Errors:

The benefit of your medication will depend on how good your inhaler and spacer technique is. Common errors are:

  1. Not continuing to breathe in when the medication hits the back of the throat.
  2. Not breathing out completely before using you inhaler.
  3. Not timing your breathing with the use of your inhaler.
  4. Using the inhaler more than once for a single breath.
  5. Not shaking the canister each time.
  6. Not waiting 30 seconds before repeating a puff.

By carefully following all of the steps listed in the procedure you can avoid these common errors.


  1. If using inhaled steroid medications, rinse your mouth with water after using the MDI and spacer. Do not swallow the water. This removes any of the steroid medication that is left in your mouth.
  2. Cleaning your MDI – Remove the canister and wash the outer shell in warm soapy water. Rinse well. Let it drip dry overnight or dry with a lint-free towel. Cleaning is usually only needed once a month.
  3. Cleaning Your Spacer Device – Spacers work best if there is residue built up on the inside. If cleaning is needed, wash the spacer gently in warm water and let it drip dry.
  4. To check the amount of medication left in your inhaler, remove the canister and shake it. You will get used to the weight and feel of a full and empty container. You always keep a second inhaler on hand.


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