Breathing issues: How to use a dry powder inhaler

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An individual with asthma or other lung conditions might require a dry powder inhaler. These conditions cause difficulty breathing and requires an inhaler so that medications can reach into the lungs. A dry powder inhaler works effectively than the same medication in pill form. An inhaler also allows using less medication than needed if the pill form is used.

Close look on a dry powder inhaler

  • A dry powder inhaler allows the individual to breathe in the medication into the lungs quickly.
  • This is usually breath-activated which means that when breathing in through the inhaler, it releases the medication into the lungs.
  • The inhalers are available in various sizes and shapes. In some variants, you must add the medication into the inhaler every time it is used. The other inhalers include an on-hand supply of medication but you should load every dose if it is used. How the dosage is added depends on the form of inhaler being used.

How to properly use the inhaler

Dry powder inhaler
A dry powder inhaler allows the individual to breathe in the medication into the lungs quickly.

A doctor should be consulted to ensure that you are utilizing the inhaler properly. It is best to practice in front of a mirror. Make sure that the inhaler is used as prescribed.

  • Store the inhaler in a dry, cool place. Avoid storing it in the bathroom since the moisture in the air can cause the dry powder to bunch together and block the inhaler.
  • Monitor the amount of medication in the inhaler. Some variants of the dry powder inhaler have dosage counters that show the number of doses left. In case the inhaler does not have a dose counter, the doctor can teach the individual how to keep track on the medication left.
  • Carefully follow the instructions of the doctor on cleaning the inhaler. Some powder might accumulate in the inhaler but there is no need to clean it daily.
  • If the individual has other inhalers used for other purposes, one might be a metered-dose inhaler in which a spacer is used. Remember that a spacer should not be used with a dry powder inhaler.

Steps on using the inhaler

  • Check if the right medication is used.
  • Detach the inhaler cap, if there is one.
  • Load or add a dose of medication as directed by the doctor.
  • The individual should tilt his/her head back a little and exhale slowly and fully. Hold the inhaler away from the mouth when exhaling. Avoid exhaling into the inhaler.
  • Position the inhaler into the mouth and close the lips securely around the mouthpiece.
  • Inhale rapidly and deeply via the mouth for 2-3 seconds. This draws the powder from the inhaler into the lungs. Once the powder is inhaled, remove the inhaler out of the mouth.
  • Hold breath for 10 seconds to allow the medication to settle into the lungs. Slowly exhale via pursed lips. Repeat the same steps if a second dose is needed.
  • If using an inhaler with corticosteroid medication, make sure to gargle and rinse the mouth with water after the inhaler is used. Do not swallow the water.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on how to use a dry powder inhaler is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage respiratory conditions using a dry powder inhaler, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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