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There are many different types of inhalers prescribed for those with lung issues (e.g. ‘press and breathe’ metered dose inhalers (puffers), ‘breathe in hard’ dry powder inhalers, etc.) You should always follow your specific inhaler’s instructions for use. And keep those instructions handy to go back and check that you’re still using it properly on a regular basis.

The following are some general tips for proper inhaler use:

  1. Practice – When it’s time to use your inhaler, try watching yourself in front of a mirror, or ask your doctor, respiratory therapist or even your pharmacist to watch.
  2. Prime New or Infrequently Used Inhalers – If your inhaler is brand new, or if you haven’t used it ​for more than 24 hours, you may need to “prime” it before using. Hold it away from your mouth and spray it once into the open air. Priming will help make sure you get the full dose once you get ready to use the inhaler.
  3. Don’t Skip the Exhale Step – An important step in using your inhaler is to blow out all the air in your lungs that you can before you breathe in the puff of medicine. Exhaling not only helps you take a deeper breath, it also helps you get the medicine deeper into your airways.
  4. Inhale Slowly – When you inhale, inhale slowly. If you hear a whistling sound, you’re inhaling too quickly.
  5. Aim the Inhaler at the Back of the Throat – If the inhaler is aimed at the roof of the mouth or at your tongue, the medicine will never make it to the lungs. This is an extremely common, and difficult, problem with a very simple fix.
  6. Wait 1 Whole Minute Before a Second Puff – If two puffs are prescribed at a time for either your controller medicine or your rescue inhaler, be sure to wait a full minute after the first puff before you take the second puff. This will ensure that the first puff has been fully circulated throughout your airways.
  7. Rinse Your Mouth! – If you use an inhaled steroid medicine in your inhaler, you could have some fungal growth in your mouth from leftover medicine after your puffs. To prevent this, rinse your mouth well with water after each dose. Spit out the water; don’t swallow it. Also, using your inhaler just before brushing your teeth is a good way to avoid three things: fungal colonization, a bad taste in your mouth and a hoarse voice.
  8. Store Your Inhaler at the Correct Temperature – Extreme temperatures and/or high altitudes can affect the medicine in your inhaler. Check the label on your inhaler for storage instructions. Don’t leave your inhaler where it might get too hot or cold (for example in your car or on a sunny windowsill). Kitchens and bathrooms are better avoided, as well. Speak to your GP about how to look after your inhaler if you’re planning to go on holiday to a hot or cold country, or if you’re going mountain climbing.
  9. Keep Your Inhaler Clean – It’s important to keep your inhaler clean so that it will keep working properly. When it’s not kept clean, it may clog, preventing you from getting the full dose of your medicine in a puff. Be sure to rinse both parts under warm, running water for at least 30 seconds at a time once a week or more. Let it air dry.
  10. Always Keep the Cap on When Not In Use – People who use inhalers have told us that sometimes things have got stuck in the mouthpiece of their inhaler. This is usually because they’ve stored it in their handbag or drawer without the cap on. This can be dangerous – there’s a risk you might inhale the stuck object when you next use your inhaler.