If you have a respiratory condition you may need to use a metered dose inhaler to help your breathing. A metered-dose inhaler or MDI, is commonly used to treat breathing conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory problems. Some medications given in a MDI are for routine administration given several times per day to keep your symtpoms under control. Others are used in emergency situations when your symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortnessor breath and chest tightness are especially bad.
What is a MDI?
A metered dose inhaler (MDI), is a small portable device used to deliver a fixed dose of medication into the lungs in aerosol form. The medication is housed in a removable metal container inside a plastic case with a mouthpiece. The end of the case has a plastic cover over the mouthpiece to keep it clean. The inhaler is quite handy in that it’s small enough to keep in your pocket or purse so you can have it with you at all times. Most metered dose inhalers are not available over the counter. These have to be prescribed by your doctor. Learning to use a metered dose inhaler is not difficult but it does take a little practice.
Here are the steps to take for using your inhaler. After just a few tries you will become accustomed to how to do this and it will become more automatic. If you haven’t used your inhaler in a while, you might need to prime it first, which simply means you will need to spray the inhaler randomly into the air once or twice prior to taking your dose. According to the Allergy and Asthma Network, priming is necessary to allow a mixing of the proper blend of ingredients in the canister. Often the medication and propellant and other ingredients will separate out when the inhaler is not in use. Using the inhaler without shaking it may cause you to receive in inadequate dose of the medication.
1) Remove the protective cap that covers the mouthpiece. Some caps are actually attached to the plastic casing of the inhaler, but if not be sure to place the cap in an area where you won’t lose it.
2) Shake the inhaler well so the medicine and the propellant and other ingredients are properly mixed together.
3) With your head tilted slightly backwards, exhale, emptying your lungs of air as much as possible.
4) Place your lips securely around the mouthpiece.
5) Press down on the inhaler and at the same time inhale, taking in a full, slow deep breath.
6) Hold your breath for about 10 seconds. This will allow the medication to travel into your lungs and keep it from escaping back into the air.
7) If your physician has instructed you take more than one puff, wait about a minute in between puffs, then repeat the process. If you have inhalers with two different medications, wait about five minutes before the using the second inhaler.
Using a Spacer with a metered dose inhaler
Spacers are helpful to those who have difficulty with using a metered dose inhaler the standard way. The spacer is a plastic device that fits between your mouth and your inhaler. Your inhaler attaches to the end of the spacer. As you close your mouth around the mouthpiece of the spacer and press on the inhaler, the medicine will go in the spacer and remain there until you take your deep breath. To see these technniques demonstrated, watch this video from National Jewish Health.
– Keep your inhaler clean and protected. Keep the lid on it when it’s not in use. This will keep you from accidentally getting dust or debris into your lungs.
– Don’t store your inhaler near a heat source such as a stove, flame or radiator as this could cause the metal canister to explode.
– Clean your inhaler in warm water every few days. Use a mild soap such as small amount of dishwashing liquid. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.
– Be sure you only take the amount that is prescribed for one dose. If your breathing symptoms are severe, contact your physician immediately.
Mega How To: “How to use a metered dose inhaler (MDI) to treat asthma”
Cleveland Clinic: “How to Use a Metered Dose Inhaler”
National Jewish Health: “Using a metered dose inhaler”
Allergy and Asthma Network: “Maximize the mist; keep inhalers clean, primed and ready”