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Hands down, inhalers are the best way to deliver asthma medication. The first metered dose inhaler (MDI) was created in 1953, but was not used in mass market or home use until years later.
The medication, whether it's controller (daily) or rescue (fast acting to stop an attack), the inhaled medication acts quickly and goes exactly where it needs to. The medication breaks down into small molecules and can get into deep parts of the lungs where it's most needed.
But according to a statement released by the National Asthma Council Australia in 2009, "up to 90 per cent of patients who use inhalers do not use their inhalers (puffers) correctly."
How do people not know how to use an inhaler, you ask? Its seems like a simple process, push the chamber and the medicine comes out. You inhale it and go on with your day, but it does take coordination. There are ways everyone can misuse the inhaler, therefore not getting the medication's full effect. This can lead to having more asthma symptoms and poorly controlled asthma.
Here are five ways you could be misusing your inhaler.
(1) Not using an aerochamber. Although the thoughts on this vary per doctor and specialist on whether the patient gets the medicine better, the aerochamber can help give medication to those who haven't coordinated the inhale and pump method of administration. This includes those with difficulty holding the inhaler such as people with arthritis or hand injuries.
The aerochamber is great for children who don't know when to breathe in for the medication. It also helps eliminate the bad after taste some people complain about when placing the inhaler in their mouths.
(2) Pumping in multiple doses. Each inhale of medication is for one puff. If two to three puffs are administered at the same time, with or without the aerochamber, aren't going to save time. The medication is designed to be given in one dose increments so the extra is being wasted.
(3) Not shaking medication between doses. It's important to shake up the puffer before giving it. Like many things, molecules can settle at the lowest point of the canister. Shaking it up helps more evenly distribute the medication before it's given.
(4) Taking too quick of an inhale. The medication is better penetrated when inhaled slowly and deeply. If the person takes a quick intake of breath, the medication can't get to those small spaces in the lungs.
(5) Not exhaling before taking inhaler. To give your lungs the space they need for the slow, deep breath, asthmatics should take a good exhale before the slow inhale. This empties the lungs and gives the asthmatic plenty of room for the medication.
Any asthmatic, especially those who are newly diagnosed can have quite a bit of trouble figuring out all the techniques. If there is any question or confusion on the medication and how to take it, call your physician or check into many free classes offered by the local chapters of the American Lung Association (Lungusa.org), Asthma and Allergy Foundation (AAFA.org) or your local hospital facilities.