Most asthma and some COPD medicines are given with an inhaler that lets you breathe medicine directly into the lungs. There are different kinds of inhalers. Metered-dose inhalers contain a gas that helps the medicine get into your lungs. Dry powder inhalers do not contain a gas. Instead, you breathe in the medicine with a quick deep breath while your lips are on the inhaler.
Many people find the dry powder inhaler easy to use because they don’t have to pump the canister while breathing in. You just inhale quickly and forcefully with the inhaler in your mouth.
Several different types of medicines are available as dry powder inhalers, including bronchodilators to open airways and make breathing easier, and steroids to lesson irritation and swelling of the airways. Some inhalers come with the medicine already inside. Others use a capsule that you put in the inhaler right before you use it.
Dry powder inhalers are not used with spacers (a small tube or bag that holds the medicine while you breathe it in to your lungs).
Read and follow the instructions that come in the medicine package. If you do not understand how to use this medicine, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist to explain.
The basic way to use a dry powdered inhaler is:
Turn your head away from the inhaler, and breathe out to the end of a normal breath. It is important that you not breathe into the inhaler. Breathing into a dry powder inhaler can clog it.
Put the mouthpiece between your lips, and close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.
Breathe in through your mouth as deeply as you can. Do not breathe through your nose.
Hold your breath and remove the mouthpiece from your mouth. Itâ€™s best to hold the breath for 5 to 10 seconds, or as long as is comfortable. This gives the medicine time to settle in your airways and lungs.
After you turn your head away from the inhaler, breathe out slowly. (Do not breathe into the inhaler.)
Keep the inhaler dry. Do not wash it. You may use a dry cloth to wipe it clean.
Make sure that you rinse your mouth with water after each use to help prevent thrush (a fungal infection that shows up as white spots on the tongue and in the mouth). The rinse water should be spit out.
If you use more than one inhaled medicine, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist which you should use first. Use inhaled medicines 10 minutes apart from each other.
Do not store an inhaler in places that may get very hot or cold (like a car), or in a damp place like a bathroom.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-17 Last reviewed: 2014-12-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Dry Powder Inhaler, How to Use: References
Inhaled Medication With a Dry Powder Inhaler (DPI). August 2012. National Jewish Health. Retrieved October 14, 2014 from
Guidance on handheld inhalers in asthma and COPD guidelines. Dekhuijzen PN, Bjermer L, Lavorini F, Ninane V, Molimard M, Haughney J. Respir Med. 2014 Mar 1. pii: S0954-6111(14)00088-2. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2014.02.013. [Epub ahead of print]
Dry-powder inhalers in acute asthma. Selroos O. Ther Deliv. 2014 Jan;5(1):69-81. doi: 10.4155/tde.13.132. PMID: 24341818
Use of breath-actuated inhalers in patients with asthma and COPD – an advance in inhalational therapy: a systematic review. Salvi S, Gogtay J, Aggarwal B.