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How To Use A Metered-dose Inhaler


A metered-dose inhaler is a handheld device that gives you a dose of medicine as a mist. You breathe the medicine deep into your lungs to open your airways. The medicine either gives quick relief or long term control of symptoms. Bronchodilators open your airways. Mucolytics thin secretions and make them easier to cough up. Steroids decrease inflammation in your airways.


Seek immediate care if:

  • Your lips or nails turn blue or gray.
  • The skin between your ribs or around your neck pulls in with every breath.
  • You feel short of breath, even after you use your inhaler.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You feel the medicine spray on your tongue or throat, rather than going into your lungs.
  • You have to take more puffs from the inhaler than directed, in order to get relief.
  • You run out of medicine before your next refill is due.
  • You feel like your medicine is not making your symptoms better.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

How to use a metered-dose inhaler:

Practice using your inhaler. Your medicine will work best if you use them correctly. The following steps will help you use your inhaler correctly:

  • Prepare your inhaler:
    • Remove the cap. Check to make sure there is nothing in the mouthpiece that could block the medicine from coming out.
    • Shake the inhaler to mix the medicine.
    • Hold the inhaler upright, with the mouthpiece pointing towards your mouth.
  • Get ready to breathe in the medicine:
    • Keep your mouth away from the inhaler mouthpiece, and breathe out fully to clear your lungs.
    • Place the mouthpiece between your lips. Close your lips around the mouthpiece to form a seal and prevent a medicine leak.
  • Start to breathe in slowly through your mouth as you press down the canister. This helps the medicine get into your lungs.
  • Hold your breath for at least 5 seconds. This will help the medicine reach all parts of your lungs, including the smaller parts called the alveoli.
  • Breathe out slowly through pursed lips. This helps keep your airway open and allows the medicine to be absorbed into more areas.
  • Repeat puffs of medicine as directed by your healthcare provider. Wait about 2 minutes between puffs. If you need to use a bronchodilator and a steroid inhaler, use the bronchodilator first. Wait 5 minutes then use the steroid inhaler.
  • Gargle with warm water to remove any leftover medicine from your mouth and throat.

Care for your inhaler properly:

Put the cap back on the inhaler after each use to keep the mouthpiece clean. Clean the inhaler at least once a week. Remove the canister and wash the holder with warm soapy water. Rinse and allow to air dry. Make sure the holder is completely dry before putting the canister back in.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Bring your inhaler to all of your visits. You may be asked to use your inhaler at these visits so your healthcare provider can make sure you are using it correctly. Write down your questions, so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.