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Aerosol Inhalers

What is an aerosol inhaler?

The purpose of an aerosol inhaler is to help an asthmatic person inhale medication into his lungs. It is metal canister, containing the medication, wrapped in a plastic mouthpiece.

Aerosol inhalers are the most commonly used type of inhaler device. They are small, conveniently fit into the pocket, and are used in case of a wide variety of drugs. Aerosol inhalers deliver the medication as a spray and need practised co-ordination to be used properly. They are generally not suitable for young children or adults with poor co-ordination.


How to use an inhaler?

Inhalers are easier to use and more effective if used with a spacer. A spacer is a large plastic container - at one end there is a mouthpiece and at the other a hole for the aerosol inhaler to fit in.

An aerosol inhaler used with a spacer is likely to get more medicine into your lungs than using just an inhaler on its own. The spacer traps the medicine inside until you breathe in so you do not have to worry about pressing the inhaler and breathing in at the same time.


Steps to be followed when using an inhaler?

  1. Hold the inhaler upright - make sure nothing is inside the mouthpiece of the inhaler.
  2. Shake the inhaler to mix the medication with the propellant.
  3. Sit upright, tilt head back slightly and breathe out completely as possible, but gently.
  4. Hold the device upright, insert the mouthpiece into your mouth ensuring that your lips firmly seal the mouthpiece. To allow the medication to enter your lungs, keep your teeth apart and your tongue flat on the floor of your mouth.
  5. At the beginning of a slow deep breath, breathe in through the inhaler and activate the aerosol once.
  6. Breathe in fully and deeply, and hold your breath for ten seconds or as long as comfortable.
  7. Breathe out gently through your nose.
  8. If you are using more than one puff, wait for 1-2 minutes and repeat steps 3-7.

Rinse your mouth with water and clean your teeth after using a corticosteroid inhaler to reduce side effects.


How to take care of aerosol inhaler?

  • Wash the mouthpiece with warm water regularly at least twice a week. Remove the plastic mouthpiece from the metal canister and wash the plastic mouthpiece in luke warm water for at least 30 seconds. Shake off any excess water and allow the mouthpiece to air dry overnight, and then reinsert the canister into the plastic mouthpiece.
  • Regularly check for white mist escaping into the air as you use the inhaler. This means that some medication is being lost into the air.
  • Check to make sure that you are closing your lips fully around the mouthpiece, and are inhaling as you press down the canister.

Disadvantages of using aerosol inhalers:

  • May cause cough, a dry irritated throat, unpleasant taste, nasal congestion, pain or headache.
  • Some people find it difficult to press the inhaler, or even breathe in at the right time.
  • It is difficult to say when the inhaler gets empty.
  • Needs weekly cleaning to prevent blockage.
  • Specific inhalation techniques are necessary for the proper use of different types of inhaler device. A non-coordinated technique can result in decreased drug delivery and reduced efficacy.

Side-effects of aerosol inhalers:

Contact the doctor if you experience white-coloured tongue, prolonged throat irritation, vision changes. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction include: rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, trouble breathing. If you notice other effects, seek medical aid immediately.


Precautions while using aerosol inhaler:

  • Before using an aerosol inhaler, inform the doctor about your medical history - all illnesses and infections, recent exposure to diseases such as chicken pox, cataract, allergies.
  • If your cough shows mucus that has thickened or changed colour from clear white to yellow, green, contact the doctor; these changes may be signs of an infection. Caution is advised when administering this drug to children.
  • During pregnancy, be careful about using this medication. It should be used only when clearly indicated by the doctor. This drug may be excreted into breast milk, so consult your doctor before breast-feeding.

If you need to use your inhaler before it is dry:

  • Shake off any excess water from the plastic casing and put the metal canister back inside
  • Test the inhaler by spraying two puffs into the air.