What you need to know about using inhalers for lung problems

What are inhalers?

Inhalers are devices which you use to deliver a dose of medicine directly into your lungs. Most inhalers are used to treat lung problems such as asthma, emphysema and chronic long-term) bronchitis. Your doctor may call this COPD, which is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Inhalers work by releasing medicine as either a mist or dry powder. In both cases the medicine must be inhaled deeply into the lungs to work properly.

It is very important to learn how to use your inhaler properly. Inhaling the medicine properly will help you breathe better.

Inhaler types include: Metered dose inhalers, Handihalers, Accuhalers and Turbuhalers.

  1. Metered dose inhaler
  2. Handihaler
  3. Accuhaler
  4. Turbuhaler


Metered dose inhalers work better if used with a spacer. A spacer is a plastic device shaped like a football or tube. Medicine is sprayed from the inhaler into the spacer and then inhaled through a mouth piece.

Using an inhaler with a spacer is just as good as using a nebuliser AND has less chance of unwanted effects.

Ask your pharmacist if a spacer is suitable for you.


Keeping healthy

Stop smoking and avoid smoke-filled environments.

Ask your doctor to check if your vaccinations are up-to-date. Vaccinations against the flu and pneumonia are recommended for some people with lung problems.

How to get the best from your inhaler

  • Visit your doctor or pharmacist regularly to check you are using your inhaler properly.
  • Show your doctor or pharmacist how you use your inhaler.
  • Check the expiry date of your inhaler.
  • Ask your doctor and pharmacist to show you how to tell how much medicine is left in your inhaler.
  • Discuss any unwanted effects with your doctor and pharmacist.
  • If you want more help with your inhaler ask your doctor about a Home Medicines Review.

What should I do?

Use your medicines safely by:

  • Knowing what each inhaler is for and when to use it.
  • Regularly checking with your doctor and pharmacist to ensure you use your inhaler properly.
  • Contacting your doctor if any unwanted effects occur.
  • Telling your doctor and pharmacist about ALL the medicines you are taking including medicines purchased from pharmacies, health food shops or supermarkets.
  • Asking your pharmacist or doctor for a CMI (Consumer Medicine Information) leaflet for each of your medicines.
  • Asking your doctor and pharmacist to assist you to maintain an accurate list of ALL your medicines.
Speak to your doctor and pharmacist about how to use your inhalers and get the best from your medicines.

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