Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Obstructive Lung Disease Inhaler Use

An important part of the successful management of COPD is learning how to properly use an inhaler.

Proper inhaler use:

  • Remove the cap from the inhaler.
  • Hold the inhaler with the mouthpiece at the bottom.
  • Shake the inhaler. This mixes the medication properly.
  • Hold the mouthpiece 1-1/2 - 2 inches (2 - 3 finger widths) in front of your mouth. This improves medication delivery by slowing mist delivery and only allowing small particles to be inhaled. Note that your mouth should not be actually touching the mouthpiece.
  • Tilt your head back slightly and open your mouth wide.
  • Gently exhale.
  • Press the inhaler and at the same time begin a slow, deep breath.
  • Continue to breathe in slowly and deeply over 3 - 5 seconds. Breathing slowly delivers the medication deeply into the airways.
  • Hold your breath for up to ten seconds. This allows the medication time to deposit in the airways.
  • Resume normal breathing.
  • Repeat steps 3 - 10 when more than one puff is prescribed.

Additional tips:
  • Keep your inhaler with you at all times, and use it at the first sign of coughing, chest tightness or wheezing.
  • Use an inhaler and spacer as directed.
  • Use your inhaler every 20 minutes for 1 hour during an attack. Continue the medication every 4 hours for 24 to 48 hours.

Continue to Obstructive Lung Disease Taking Control

Last Updated: Dec 8, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Obstructive Lung Disease References
  1. Celli BR, Thomas NE, Anderson JA, Ferguson GT, Jenkins CR, Jones PW, Vestbo J, Knobil K, Yates JC, Calverley PM. Effect of pharmacotherapy on rate of decline of lung function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from the TORCH study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Aug 15;178(4):332-8. Epub 2008 May 29. [18511702]
  2. Doherty DE, Briggs DD Jr. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: epidemiology, pathogenesis, disease course, and prognosis. Clin Cornerstone. 2004;Suppl 2:S5-16. [15500179]
  3. Ebell MH. Systemic corticosteroids for acute exacerbations of COPD. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Aug 1;72(3):437-8. [16100857]
  4. Kerstjens H, Postma D, Ten Hacken N. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Clin Evid. 2004 Jun;(11):2003-30. [15652094]
  5. Weder MM, Donohue JF. Role of bronchodilators in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 Apr;26(2):221-34. [16088439]
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