Inhaled medications are often taken by using a device called a metered dose inhaler, or MDI. An MDI is an aerosol canister filled with medicine. It is in a plastic holder with a mouthpiece. There are two methods for using an MDI. In many cases, the preferred method is with a device called a valved holding chamber (figure 1). These devices attach to the MDI and hold the “spray” of medication. They make it easier to use the MDI and help get the medication into the lungs better. An MDI can also be used without a chamber (figure 2). These methods are described below. Your health care professional will decide which method is best for you.
Priming: Priming (spraying one or more puffs into the air before use) makes sure that the inhaler is ready to use and will deliver the correct dose of medication. Priming may be different for each medication, so it is important to read the patient instructions that come with your inhaler.
For some MDIs, you can remove the canister and rinse the plastic holder with warm running water once a week to prevent the holes from getting clogged. Shake well and air dry completely.
There are other medications in which the inhaler cannot be removed from the holder. These usually need to be cleaned by wiping the mouthpiece with a cloth or cleaning with a dry cotton swab. Refer to the patient instructions that come with your inhaler.
Clean the chamber about once a week. Remove the soft ring at the end of the chamber. Soak both the chamber and soft ring in warm water with a mild detergent. Carefully clean, rinse in clear water, and shake well. Allow to air dry completely.
It is important that you know how much medication is left in your inhaler. Most inhalers have counting devices built in. Remember to watch the counter and replace the inhaler when the counter is on zero.
For convenience, there are counting devices that attach to the inhaler that will keep track of how often your inhaler is sprayed. If you are interested, ask your healthcare professional for more information about these devices, or how to best keep track of your medicine without an add-on device (if you prefer).
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
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