Inhalers: Tracking Your Doses

It is important to know when to replace your inhaler, so that you don’t run out of medicine. The way to do this is to keep track of how many doses (puffs) are left in your inhaler.

How do I track doses?

Some inhalers have a built-in counter that keeps track of the number of puffs left. All you need to do is to replace the inhaler when the counter gets close to zero.

If your metered-dose inhaler does not have a counter, check the label or the written instructions for the number of sprays or puffs in the inhaler. (It may say inhalations or actuations instead of puffs.) Write down the number of puffs.

If you use your inhaler on a schedule every day:

  • Write down how many puffs you should take each day.
  • Divide the number on the label by the number of puffs you should take each day. (For example, 120 puffs divided by 4 puffs per day = 30 days.) This gives you the number of days your inhaler will last.
  • Count off the days on a calendar, then write the date down on the inhaler and on the calendar. You can make a note to refill the prescription 5 days before the inhaler runs out.

If you only use your inhaler when you need it:

  • Put a piece of tape on the inhaler and make a mark on it each time you use a puff. Make the marks in groups of 5 so you can count them easily.
  • Get a refill when 5 to 10 puffs are left.

If you have a dry powder inhaler that uses capsules, you can keep track of how many doses are left by checking the number of capsules you have.

What should I avoid?

Do not put a metered-dose inhaler in water to see if it will float. Some inhalers float when they are full. Putting it in water may damage the canister. Dry powder inhalers must be kept dry or they will not work properly.

Do not shake the inhaler to see if it is empty. Even after you have used all the medicine, a metered-dose inhaler may feel as if there are puffs left. This is because there may be some gas left even though the medicine is gone. Do not shake a dry powder inhaler. It may keep it from delivering the correct dose of medicine.

Do not assume that tasting something when you use the inhaler means that there is medicine left. The medicine may have run out and you may not get your correct dose.

Do not use an inhaler past the expiration date of the medicine. The medicine may not be strong enough or it may no longer be safe to use.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-19
Last reviewed: 2014-12-18
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.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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