Inhalers of one kind or another are often the mainstay of asthma therapy. I'm Dr. Alan Greene and let's talk about how to actually use an inhaler. When someone is first handed an inhaler, their first instinct is often to put their mouth around the opening and to squeeze. But it turns out when you do it that way, you'll often end up with a lot of the medicine inside your mouth, on your tongue, on the roof of your mouth, inside the cheeks. You get less medicine down into the lungs where it is needed. It tastes bad. And if it happens to be one of the preventative kinds of medications, it could actually lead to thrush or yeast in the mouth.
Something else that's worth noting. An even better way to use an inhaler is with a spacer. We especially recommend this for kids, but it's better for adults, too. And the way the spacer works, you don't have to be coordinated. You don't have to time it perfectly. You can put the spacer into your mouth and you squirt the medicine into the spacer and just breathe in and out normally for a while so the medicine keeps coming in.
Now what ever you use, whether it's a straight inhaler or the spacer, there's a recent change that's worth being aware of. For a long time, asthma inhalers were propelled by CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) that caused some problems with global warming and ozone depletion. Those have now been replaced or are being replaced with something called HFA instead. And that's great for the environment, but it is a little bit clumpier. So it's important the little place where the medicine comes out of, you may need to clean off on an albuterol kind of inhaler, whether you are using a spacer or using directly into your mouth.
Review Date: 5/20/2019
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.